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The envelope of Gram-negative bacteria is composed of two distinct lipid membranes: an inner membrane and outer membrane. The outer membrane is an asymmetric bilayer with an inner leaflet of phospholipids and an outer leaflet of lipopolysaccharide. Most of the steps of lipid synthesis occur within the cytoplasmic compartment of the cell. Lipids must then be transported across the inner membrane and delivered to the outer membrane. These topological features combined with the ability to apply the tools of biochemistry and genetics make the Gram-negative envelope a fascinating model for the study of lipid trafficking. In addition, as lipopolysaccharide is essential for growth of most strains and is a potent inducer of the mammalian innate immune response via activation of Toll-like receptors, Gram-negative lipid transport is also a promising target for the development of novel antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds. This review focuses on recent developments in our understanding of lipid transport across the inner membrane and to the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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Molecular Microbiology

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