Late-stage polyribitol phosphate wall teichoic acid biosynthesis in Staphylococcus aureus

Timothy C. Meredith, Jonathan G. Swoboda, Suzanne Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Wall teichoic acids are cell wall polymers that maintain the integrity of the cellular envelope and contribute to the virulence of Staphylococcus aureus. Despite the central role of wall teichoic acid in S. aureus virulence, details concerning the biosynthetic pathway of the predominant wall teichoic acid polymer are lacking, and workers have relied on a presumed similarity to the putative polyribitol phosphate wall teichoic acid pathway in Bacillus subtilis. Using high-resolution polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis for analysis of wall teichoic acid extracted from gene deletion mutants, a revised assembly pathway for the late-stage ribitol phosphate-utilizing enzymes is proposed. Complementation studies show that a putative ribitol phosphate polymerase, TarL, catalyzes both the addition of the priming ribitol phosphate onto the linkage unit and the subsequent polymerization of the polyribitol chain. It is known that the putative ribitol primase, TarK, is also a bifunctional enzyme that catalyzes both ribitol phosphate priming and polymerization. TarK directs the synthesis of a second, electrophoretically distinct polyribitol-containing teichoic acid that we designate K-WTA. The biosynthesis of K-WTA in S. aureus strain NCTC8325 is repressed by the accessory gene regulator (agr) system. The demonstration of regulated wall teichoic acid biosynthesis has implications for cell envelope remodeling in relation to S. aureus adhesion and pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3046-3056
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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