Lactobacillus casei ATCC 27139 enhances host innate immunity, and the J1 phage-resistant mutants of this strain lose the activity. A transposon insertion mutant library of L. casei ATCC 27139 was constructed, and nine J1 phage-resistant mutants out of them were obtained. Cloning and sequencing analyses identified three independent genes that were disrupted by insertion of the transposon element: asnH, encoding asparagine synthetase, and dnaJ and dnaK, encoding the molecular chaperones DnaJ and DnaK, respectively. Using an in vivo mouse model of Listeria infection, only asnH mutant showed deficiency in their ability to enhance host innate immunity, and complementation of the mutation by introduction of the wild-type asnH in the mutant strain recovered the immuno-augmenting activity. AsnH protein exhibited asparagine synthetase activity when the lysozyme-treated cell wall extracts of L. casei ATCC 27139 was added as substrate. The asnH mutants lost the thick and rigid peptidoglycan features that are characteristic to the wild-type cells, indicating that AsnH of L. casei is involved in peptidoglycan biosynthesis. These results indicate that asnH is required for the construction of the peptidoglycan composition involved in the immune-activating capacity of L. casei ATCC 27139.
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