Separation of the Cell Envelope for Gram-negative Bacteria into Inner and Outer Membrane Fractions with Technical Adjustments for Acinetobacter baumannii

* These authors contributed equally
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This method works by partitioning the envelope of Gram-negative bacteria into total, inner, and outer membrane (OM) fractions and concludes with assays to assess the purity of the bilayers. The OM has an increased overall density compared to the inner membrane, largely due to the presence of lipooligosaccharides (LOS) and lipopolysaccharides (LPS) within the outer leaflet. LOS and LPS molecules are amphipathic glycolipids that have a similar structure, which consists of a lipid-A disaccharolipid and core-oligosaccharide substituent. However, only LPS molecules are decorated with a third subunit known as the O-polysaccharide, or O-antigen. The type and amount of glycolipids present will impact an organism’s OM density. Therefore, we tested whether the membranes of bacteria with varied glycolipid content could be similarly isolated using our technique. For the LPS-producing organisms, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Escherichia coli, the membranes were easily isolated and the LPS O-antigen moiety did not impact bilayer partitioning. Acinetobacter baumannii produces LOS molecules, which have a similar mass to O-antigen deficient LPS molecules; however, the membranes of these microbes could not initially be separated. We reasoned that the OM of A. baumannii was less dense than that of Enterobacteriaceae, so the sucrose gradient was adjusted and the membranes were isolated. The technique can therefore be adapted and modified for use with other organisms.