Open Access Research article

Deletion of the glycosyltransferase bgsB of Enterococcus faecalis leads to a complete loss of glycolipids from the cell membrane and to impaired biofilm formation

Christian Theilacker1*, Irina Sava1, Patricia Sanchez-Carballo2, Yinyin Bao1, Andrea Kropec1, Elisabeth Grohmann1, Otto Holst2 and Johannes Huebner1

Author affiliations

1 Center for Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine, University Medical Center Freiburg, Germany

2 Division of Structural Biochemistry, Research Center Borstel, Leibniz-Center for Medicine and Biosciences, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:67  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-67

Published: 6 April 2011



Deletion of the glycosyltransferase bgsA in Enterococcus faecalis leads to loss of diglucosyldiacylglycerol from the cell membrane and accumulation of its precursor monoglucosyldiacylglycerol, associated with impaired biofilm formation and reduced virulence in vivo. Here we analyzed the function of a putative glucosyltransferase EF2890 designated biofilm-associated glycolipid synthesis B (bgsB) immediately downstream of bgsA.


A deletion mutant was constructed by targeted mutagenesis in E. faecalis strain 12030. Analysis of cell membrane extracts revealed a complete loss of glycolipids from the cell membrane. Cell walls of 12030ΔbgsB contained approximately fourfold more LTA, and 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy suggested that the higher content of cellular LTA was due to increased length of the glycerol-phosphate polymer of LTA. 12030ΔbgsB was not altered in growth, cell morphology, or autolysis. However, attachment to Caco-2 cells was reduced to 50% of wild-type levels, and biofilm formation on polystyrene was highly impaired. Despite normal resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides, complement and antibody-mediated opsonophagocytic killing in vitro, 12030ΔbgsB was cleared more rapidly from the bloodstream of mice than wild-type bacteria. Overall, the phenotype resembles the respective deletion mutant in the bgsA gene. Our findings suggest that loss of diglucosyldiacylglycerol or the altered structure of LTA in both mutants account for phenotypic changes observed.


In summary, BgsB is a glucosyltransferase that synthesizes monoglucosyldiacylglycerol. Its inactivation profoundly affects cell membrane composition and has secondary effects on LTA biosynthesis. Both cell-membrane amphiphiles are critical for biofilm formation and virulence of E. faecalis.