The mlaA gene encodes a lipoprotein to maintain an outer membrane lipid asymmetry in gram-negative bacteria. Although the role of mlaA in bacterial virulence has been studied in several bacterial species, there are no reports of its role in E. coli virulence. In this study, we found that knockout of mlaA in E. coli increased its virulence against silkworms. The mlaA-knockout mutant was sensitive to several antibiotics and detergents, but resistant to vancomycin and chlorhexidine. The mlaA-knockout mutant grew faster than the parent strain in the presence of silkworm hemolymph. The mlaA-knockout mutant also produced a larger amount of outer membrane vesicles than the parent strain. These findings suggest that mlaA knockout causes E. coli resistance to specific antimicrobial substances and increases outer membrane vesicle production, thereby enhancing E. coli virulence properties in the silkworm infection model.
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