UT-ORNL Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA; Department of Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA; Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Bacterial membranes are complex mixtures of lipids and proteins, the combination of which confers biophysical properties that allows cells to respond to environmental conditions. Carotenoids are sterol analogs that are important for regulating membrane dynamics. The membrane of Pantoea sp. YR343 is characterized by the presence of the carotenoid zeaxanthin, and a carotenoid-deficient mutant, ΔcrtB, displays defects in root colonization, reduced secretion of indole-3-acetic acid, and defects in biofilm formation. Here we demonstrate that the loss of carotenoids results in changes to the membrane lipid composition in Pantoea sp. YR343, including increased amounts of unsaturated fatty acids in the ΔcrtB mutant membranes. These mutant cells displayed less fluid membranes in comparison to wild type cells as measured by fluorescence anisotropy of whole cells. Studies with artificial systems, however, have shown that carotenoids impart membrane rigidifying properties. Thus, we examined membrane fluidity using spheroplasts and vesicles composed of lipids extracted from either wild type or mutant cells. Interestingly, with the removal of the cell wall and membrane proteins, ΔcrtB vesicles were more fluid than vesicles made from lipids extracted from wild type cells. In addition, carotenoids appeared to stabilize membrane fluidity during rapidly changing temperatures. Taken together, these results suggest that Pantoea sp. YR343 compensates for the loss of carotenoids by changing lipid composition, which together with membrane proteins, results in reduced membrane fluidity. These changes may influence the abundance or function of membrane proteins that are responsible for the physiological changes observed in the ΔcrtB mutant cells.