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The O-acetylation of peptidoglycan occurs at the C-6 hydroxyl group of muramoyl residues in many human pathogens, both gram positive and gram negative, such as Staphylococcus aureus and species of Campylobacter, Helicobacter, Neisseria, and Bacillus, including Bacillus anthracis. The process is a maturation event being catalyzed either by integral membrane O-acetylpeptidoglycan transferase (Oat) of gram-positive bacteria or by a two-component peptidoglycan O-acetyltransferase system (PatA/PatB) in gram-negative cells. Here, we describe the development of the first in vitro assay for any peptidoglycan O-acetyltransferase using PatB from Neisseria gonorrhoeae as the model enzyme. This assay is based on the use of chromogenic p-nitrophenyl acetate as the donor substrate and chitooligosaccharides as model acceptor substrates in place of peptidoglycan. The identity of the O-acetylated chitooligosaccharides was confirmed by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Rates of transacetylations were determined spectrophotometrically by monitoring p-nitrophenol release after accounting for both spontaneous and enzyme-catalyzed hydrolysis of the acetate donor. Conditions were established for use of the assay in microtiter plate format, and its applicability was demonstrated by determining the first Michaelis-Menten kinetic parameters for PatB. The assay is readily amenable for application in the high-throughput screening for potential inhibitors of peptidoglycan O-acetyltransferases that may prove to be leads for novel classes of antibiotics. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Patrick J Moynihan, Anthony J Clarke. Assay for peptidoglycan O-acetyltransferase: a potential new antibacterial target. Analytical biochemistry. 2013 Aug 15;439(2):73-9

PMID: 23660013

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