Posttranslational control of plsb is sufficient to coordinate membrane synthesis with growth in escherichia coli

Marek J. Noga, Ferhat Büke, Niels J.F. van den Broek, Nicole C.E. Imholz, Nicole Scherer, Flora Yang, Gregory Bokinsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Every cell must produce enough membrane to contain itself. However, the mechanisms by which the rate of membrane synthesis is coupled with the rate of cell growth remain unresolved. By comparing substrate and enzyme concentrations of the fatty acid and phospholipid synthesis pathways of Escherichia coli across a 3-fold range of carbon-limited growth rates, we show that the rate of membrane phospholipid synthesis during steady-state growth is determined principally through allosteric control of a single enzyme, PlsB. Due to feedback regulation of the fatty acid pathway, PlsB activity also indirectly controls synthesis of lipopolysaccharide, a major component of the outer membrane synthesized from a fatty acid synthesis intermediate. Surprisingly, concentrations of the enzyme that catalyzes the committed step of lipopolysaccharide synthesis (LpxC) do not differ across steady-state growth conditions, suggesting that steady-state lipopolysaccharide synthesis is modulated primarily via indirect control by PlsB. In contrast to steady-state regulation, we found that responses to environmental perturbations are triggered directly via changes in acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) concentrations, which enable rapid adaptation. Adaptations are further modulated by ppGpp, which regulates PlsB activity during slow growth and growth arrest. The strong reliance of the membrane synthesis pathway upon posttranslational regulation ensures both the reliability and the responsiveness of membrane synthesis. IMPORTANCE How do bacterial cells grow without breaking their membranes? Although the biochemistry of fatty acid and membrane synthesis is well known, how membrane synthesis is balanced with growth and metabolism has remained unclear. This is partly due to the many control points that have been discovered within the membrane synthesis pathways. By precisely establishing the contributions of individual pathway enzymes, our results simplify the model of membrane biogenesis in the model bacterial species Escherichia coli. Specifically, we found that allosteric control of a single enzyme, PlsB, is sufficient to balance growth with membrane synthesis and to ensure that growing E. coli cells produce sufficient membrane. Identifying the signals that activate and deactivate PlsB will resolve the issue of how membrane synthesis is synchronized with growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02703-19
Pages (from-to)1-15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Fatty acids
  • Lipopolysaccharide
  • Membrane biogenesis
  • Metabolic regulation
  • Phospholipids
  • Posttranslational regulation
  • PpGpp
  • Proteomics


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