Get access

d-Alanyl ester depletion of teichoic acids in Lactobacillus reuteri 100-23 results in impaired colonization of the mouse gastrointestinal tract


E-mail; Tel. (+1) 402 472 2615; Fax (+1) 402 472 1693.


The dlt operon of Gram-positive bacteria encodes proteins required for the incorporation of d-alanine esters into cell wall-associated teichoic acids (TA). d-Alanylation of TA has been shown to be important for acid tolerance, resistance to antimicrobial peptides, adhesion, biofilm formation, and virulence of a variety of pathogenic organisms. The aim of this study was to determine the importance of d-alanylation for colonization of the gastrointestinal tract by Lactobacillus reuteri 100-23. Insertional inactivation of the dltA gene resulted in complete depletion of d-alanine substitution of lipoteichoic acids. The dlt mutant had similar growth characteristics as the wild type under standard in vitro conditions, but formed lower population sizes in the gastrointestinal tract of ex-Lactobacillus-free mice, and was almost eliminated from the habitat in competition experiments with the parental strain. In contrast to the wild type, the dlt mutant was unable to form a biofilm on the forestomach epithelium during gut colonization. Transmission electron microscope observations showed evidence of cell wall damage of mutant bacteria present in the forestomach. The dlt mutant had impaired growth under acidic culture conditions and increased susceptibility to the cationic peptide nisin relative to the wild type. Ex vivo adherence of the dlt mutant to the forestomach epithelium was not impaired. This study showed that d-alanylation is an important cell function of L. reuteri that seems to protect this commensal organism against the hostile conditions prevailing in the murine forestomach.