Outer-membrane phospholipase A: known structure, unknown biological function.
Outer-membrane phospholipase A (OMPLA) is one of the few enzymes present in the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. The enzymatic activity of OMPLA is strictly regulated to prevent uncontrolled breakdown of the surrounding phospholipids. The activity of OMPLA can be induced by membrane perturbation and concurs with dimerization of the enzyme. The recently elucidated crystal structures of the inactive, monomeric and an inhibited dimeric form of the enzyme provide detailed structural insight into the functional properties of the enzyme. OMPLA is a serine hydrolase with a unique Asn-156-His-142-Ser-144 catalytic triad. Only in the dimeric state, complete substrate binding pockets and functional oxyanion holes are formed. A model is proposed for the activation of OMPLA in which membrane perturbation causes the formation of non-bilayer structures, resulting in the presentation of phospholipids to the active site of OMPLA and leading to the formation of the active dimeric species. Possible roles for OMPLA in maintaining the cell envelope integrity and in pathogenicity are discussed.