Effects of pleiotropic ompR and envZ alleles of Escherichia coli on envelope stress and antibiotic sensitivity

Henri Gerken, Dasvit Shetty, Brea Kern, Linda J. Kenney, Rajeev Misra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The EnvZ-OmpR two-component system of Escherichia coli regulates the expression of the ompF and ompC porin genes in response to medium osmolarity. However, certain mutations in envZ confer pleiotropy by affecting the expression of genes of the iron and maltose regulons not normally controlled by EnvZ-OmpR. In this study, we obtained two novel envZ and ompR pleiotropic alleles, envZT15P and ompRL19Q, among revertants of a mutant with heightened envelope stress and an outer membrane (OM) permeability defect. Unlike envZ, pleiotropic mutations in ompR have not been described previously. The mutant alleles reduced the expression of several outer membrane proteins (OMPs), overcame the temperature-sensitive growth defect of a protease-deficient (ΔdegP) strain, and lowered envelope stress and OM permeability defects in a background lacking the BamB protein of an essential β-barrel assembly machinery complex. Biochemical analysis showed OmpRL19Q, like wild-type OmpR, is readily phosphorylated by EnvZ, but the EnvZ-dependent dephosphorylation of OmpRL19Q~P was drastically impaired compared to wild-type OmpR. This defect would lead to a prolonged half-life for OmpRL19Q~P, an outcome remarkably similar to what we had previously described for EnvZR397L, resulting in pleiotropy. By employing null alleles of the OMP genes, it was determined that the three pleiotropic alleles lowered envelope stress by reducing OmpF and LamB levels. The absence of LamB was principally responsible for lowering the OM permeability defect, as assessed by the reduced sensitivity of a ΔbamB mutant to vancomycin and rifampin. Possible mechanisms by which novel EnvZ and OmpR mutants influence EnvZ-OmpR interactions and activities are discussed.IMPORTANCEMaintenance of the outer membrane (OM) integrity is critical for the survival of Gram-negative bacteria. Several envelope homeostasis systems are activated when OM integrity is perturbed. Through the isolation and characterization of novel pleiotropic ompR/envZ alleles, this study highlights the involvement of the EnvZ-OmpR two-component system in lowering envelope stress and the OM permeability defect caused by the loss of proteins that are involved in OM biogenesis, envelope homeostasis, and structural integrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e0017224
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 20 2024


  • envelope stress
  • EnvZ-OmpR
  • suppressor analysis
  • two-component systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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