The synthesis of an extracellular ribbon of cellulose in the bacterium Acetobacter xylinum takes place from linearly arranged, membrane-localized, cellulose-synthesizing and extrusion complexes that direct the coupled steps of polymerization and crystallization. To identify the different components involved in this process, we isolated an Acetobacter cellulose-synthesizing (acs) operon from this bacterium. Analysis of DNA sequence shows the presence of three genes in the acs operon, in which the first gene (acsAB) codes for a polypeptide with a molecular mass of 168 M)a, which was identified as the cellulose synthase. A single base change in the previously reported DNA sequence of this gene, resulting in a frameshift and synthesis of a larger protein, is described in the present paper, along with the sequences of the other two genes (acsC and acsD). The requirement of the acs operon genes for cellulose production was determined using site-determined TnphoA/Kanr GenBlock insertion mutants. Mutant analysis showed that while the acsAB and acsC genes were essential for cellulose production in vivo, the acsD mutant produced reduced amounts of two cellulose allomorphs (cellulose I and cellulose II), suggesting that the acsD gene is involved in cellulose crystallization. The role of the acs operon genes in determining the linear array of intramembranous particles, which are believed to be sites of cellulose synthesis, was investigated for the different mutants; however, this arrangement was observed only in cells that actively produced cellulose microfibrils, suggesting that it may be influenced by the crystallization of the nascent glucan chains.
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