The target of β-lactam antibiotics is the D,D-transpeptidase activity of penicillin- binding proteins (PBPs) for synthesis of 4fi3 cross-links in the peptidoglycan of bacterial cell walls. Unusual 3fi3 cross-links formed by L,D-transpeptidases were first detected in Escherichia coli more than four decades ago, however no phenotype has previously been associated with their synthesis. Here we show that production of the L,D-transpeptidase YcbB in combination with elevated synthesis of the (p)ppGpp alarmone by RelA lead to full bypass of the D,D-transpeptidase activity of PBPs and to broad-spectrum β-lactam resistance. Production of YcbB was therefore sufficient to switch the role of (p)ppGpp from antibiotic tolerance to high-level β-lactam resistance. This observation identifies a new mode of peptidoglycan polymerization in E. coli that relies on an unexpectedly small number of enzyme activities comprising the glycosyltransferase activity of class A PBP1b and the D,D-carboxypeptidase activity of DacA in addition to the L,D-transpeptidase activity of YcbB.
Hugonnet, J. E., Mengin-Lecreulx, D., Monton, A., den Blaauwen, T., Carbonnelle, E., Veckerlé, C., … Arthur, M. (2016). Factors essential for L,D-transpeptidase-mediated peptidoglycan cross-linking and β-lactam resistance in Escherichia coli. ELife, 5(OCTOBER2016). https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.19469