Timothy J. Donohue
Professor of Bacteriology
Lab Phone: 608-265-8465
The biochemical properties of lignin present major obstacles to deriving societally beneficial entities from lignocellulosic biomass, an abundant and renewable feedstock. Similar to other biopolymers such as polysaccharides, polypeptides, and ribonucleic acids, lignin polymers are derived from multiple types of monomeric units. However, lignin's renowned recalcitrance is largely attributable to its racemic nature and the variety of covalent inter-unit linkages through which its aromatic monomers are linked. Indeed, unlike other biopolymers whose monomers are consistently inter-linked by a single type of covalent bond, the monomeric units in lignin are linked via non-enzymatic, combinatorial radical coupling reactions that give rise to a variety of inter-unit covalent bonds in mildly branched racemic polymers. Yet, despite the chemical complexity and stability of lignin, significant strides have been made in recent years to identify routes through which valued commodities can be derived from it. This paper discusses emerging biological and biochemical means through which degradation of lignin to aromatic monomers can lead to the derivation of commercially valuable products.
On November 18-19, 2016, the Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) hosted a meeting of senior managers of key data resources and leaders of several major funding organizations to discuss the challenges associated with sustaining biological and biomedical (i.e., life sciences) data resources and associated infrastructure. A strong consensus emerged from the group that core data resources for the life sciences should be supported through a coordinated international effort(s) that better ensure long-term sustainability and that appropriately align funding with scientific impact. Ideally, funding for such data resources should allow for access at no charge, as is presently the usual (and preferred) mechanism. Below, the rationale for this vision is described, and some important considerations for developing a new international funding model to support core data resources for the life sciences are presented.
There has been great progress in the development of technology for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to sugars and subsequent fermentation to fuels. However, plant lignin remains an untapped source of materials for production of fuels or high value chemicals. Biological cleavage of lignin has been well characterized in fungi, in which enzymes that create free radical intermediates are used to degrade this material. In contrast, a catabolic pathway for the stereospecific cleavage of β-aryl ether units that are found in lignin has been identified in Sphingobium sp. SYK-6 bacteria. β-Aryl ether units are typically abundant in lignin, corresponding to 50-70% of all of the intermonomer linkages. Consequently, a comprehensive understanding of enzymatic β-aryl ether (β-ether) cleavage is important for future efforts to biologically process lignin and its breakdown products. The crystal structures and biochemical characterization of the NAD-dependent dehydrogenases (LigD, LigO, and LigL) and the glutathione-dependent lyase LigG provide new insights into the early and late enzymes in the β-ether degradation pathway. We present detailed information on the cofactor and substrate binding sites and on the catalytic mechanisms of these enzymes, comparing them with other known members of their respective families. Information on the Lig enzymes provides new insight into their catalysis mechanisms and can inform future strategies for using aromatic oligomers derived from plant lignin as a source of valuable aromatic compounds for biofuels and other bioproducts.
Microorganisms have shaped our planet and its inhabitants for over 3.5 billion years. Humankind has had a profound influence on the biosphere, manifested as global climate and land use changes, and extensive urbanization in response to a growing population. The challenges we face to supply food, energy, and clean water while maintaining and improving the health of our population and ecosystems are significant. Given the extensive influence of microorganisms across our biosphere, we propose that a coordinated, cross-disciplinary effort is required to understand, predict, and harness microbiome function. From the parallelization of gene function testing to precision manipulation of genes, communities, and model ecosystems and development of novel analytical and simulation approaches, we outline strategies to move microbiome research into an era of causality. These efforts will improve prediction of ecosystem response and enable the development of new, responsible, microbiome-based solutions to significant challenges of our time.
NADH:quinone oxidoreductase (complex I) is a bioenergetic enzyme that transfers electrons from NADH to quinone, conserving the energy of this reaction by contributing to the proton motive force. While the importance of NADH oxidation to mitochondrial aerobic respiration is well documented, the contribution of complex I to bacterial electron transport chains has been tested in only a few species. Here, we analyze the function of two phylogenetically distinct complex I isozymes in Rhodobacter sphaeroides, an alphaproteobacterium that contains well-characterized electron transport chains. We found that R. sphaeroides complex I activity is important for aerobic respiration and required for anaerobic dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) respiration (in the absence of light), photoautotrophic growth, and photoheterotrophic growth (in the absence of an external electron acceptor). Our data also provide insight into the functions of the phylogenetically distinct R. sphaeroidescomplex I enzymes (complex IA and complex IE) in maintaining a cellular redox state during photoheterotrophic growth. We propose that the function of each isozyme during photoheterotrophic growth is either NADH synthesis (complex IA) or NADH oxidation (complex IE). The canonical alphaproteobacterial complex I isozyme (complex IA) was also shown to be important for routing electrons to nitrogenase-mediated H2 production, while the horizontally acquired enzyme (complex IE) was dispensable in this process. Unlike the singular role of complex I in mitochondria, we predict that the phylogenetically distinct complex I enzymes found across bacterial species have evolved to enhance the functions of their respective electron transport chains. Cells use a proton motive force (PMF), NADH, and ATP to support numerous processes. In mitochondria, complex I uses NADH oxidation to generate a PMF, which can drive ATP synthesis. This study analyzed the function of complex I in bacteria, which contain more-diverse and more-flexible electron transport chains than mitochondria. We tested complex I function in Rhodobacter sphaeroides, a bacterium predicted to encode two phylogenetically distinct complex I isozymes. R. sphaeroides cells lacking both isozymes had growth defects during all tested modes of growth, illustrating the important function of this enzyme under diverse conditions. We conclude that the two isozymes are not functionally redundant and predict that phylogenetically distinct complex I enzymes have evolved to support the diverse lifestyles of bacteria.
Lignin is a combinatorial polymer comprising monoaromatic units that are linked via covalent bonds. Although lignin is a potential source of valuable aromatic chemicals, its recalcitrance to chemical or biological digestion presents major obstacles to both the production of second-generation biofuels and the generation of valuable coproducts from lignin's monoaromatic units. Degradation of lignin has been relatively well characterized in fungi, but it is less well understood in bacteria. A catabolic pathway for the enzymatic breakdown of aromatic oligomers linked via β-aryl ether bonds typically found in lignin has been reported in the bacterium Sphingobium sp. SYK-6. Here, we present x-ray crystal structures and biochemical characterization of the glutathione-dependent β-etherases, LigE and LigF, from this pathway. The crystal structures show that both enzymes belong to the canonical two-domain fold and glutathione binding site architecture of the glutathione S-transferase family. Mutagenesis of the conserved active site serine in both LigE and LigF shows that, whereas the enzymatic activity is reduced, this amino acid side chain is not absolutely essential for catalysis. The results include descriptions of cofactor binding sites, substrate binding sites, and catalytic mechanisms. Because β-aryl ether bonds account for 50-70% of all interunit linkages in lignin, understanding the mechanism of enzymatic β-aryl ether cleavage has significant potential for informing ongoing studies on the valorization of lignin.
Cell shape has been suggested to play an important role in the regulation of bacterial attachment to surfaces and the formation of communities associated with surfaces. We found that a cardiolipin synthase (Δcls) mutant of the rod-shaped bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides--in which synthesis of the anionic, highly curved phospholipid cardiolipin (CL) is reduced by 90%--produces ellipsoid-shaped cells that are impaired in biofilm formation. Reducing the concentration of CL did not cause significant defects in R. sphaeroides cell growth, swimming motility, lipopolysaccharide and exopolysaccharide production, surface adhesion protein expression, and membrane permeability. Complementation of the CL-deficient mutant by ectopically expressing CL synthase restored cells to their rod shape and increased biofilm formation. Treating R. sphaeroides cells with a low concentration (10 μg/ml) of the small-molecule MreB inhibitor S-(3,4-dichlorobenzyl)isothiourea produced ellipsoid-shaped cells that had no obvious growth defect yet reduced R. sphaeroides biofilm formation. This study demonstrates that CL plays a role in R. sphaeroides cell shape determination, biofilm formation, and the ability of the bacterium to adapt to its environment. Membrane composition plays a fundamental role in the adaptation of many bacteria to environmental stress. In this study, we build a new connection between the anionic phospholipid cardiolipin (CL) and cellular adaptation in Rhodobacter sphaeroides. We demonstrate that CL plays a role in the regulation of R. sphaeroides morphology and is important for the ability of this bacterium to form biofilms. This study correlates CL concentration, cell shape, and biofilm formation and provides the first example of how membrane composition in bacteria alters cell morphology and influences adaptation. This study also provides insight into the potential of phospholipid biosynthesis as a target for new chemical strategies designed to alter or prevent biofilm formation.
Lignocellulosic biomass hydrolysates hold great potential as a feedstock for microbial biofuel production, due to their high concentration of fermentable sugars. Present at lower concentrations are a suite of aromatic compounds that can inhibit fermentation by biofuel-producing microbes. We have developed a microbial-mediated strategy for removing these aromatic compounds, using the purple nonsulfur bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris. When grown photoheterotrophically in an anaerobic environment, R. palustris removes most of the aromatics from ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX) treated corn stover hydrolysate (ACSH), while leaving the sugars mostly intact. We show that R. palustris can metabolize a host of aromatic substrates in ACSH that have either been previously described as unable to support growth, such as methoxylated aromatics, and those that have not yet been tested, such as aromatic amides. Removing the aromatics from ACSH with R. palustris, allowed growth of a second microbe that could not grow in the untreated ACSH. By using defined mutants, we show that most of these aromatic compounds are metabolized by the benzoyl-CoA pathway. We also show that loss of enzymes in the benzoyl-CoA pathway prevents total degradation of the aromatics in the hydrolysate, and instead allows for biological transformation of this suite of aromatics into selected aromatic compounds potentially recoverable as an additional bioproduct.
Understanding the mechanisms of lipid accumulation in microorganisms is important for several reasons. In addition to providing insight into assembly of biological membranes, lipid accumulation has important applications in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. The photosynthetic bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides is an attractive organism to study lipid accumulation, as it has the ability to increase membrane production at low O2 tensions. Under these conditions, R. sphaeroides develops invaginations of the cytoplasmic membrane to increase its membrane surface area for housing of the membrane-bound components of its photosynthetic apparatus. Here we use fatty acid levels as a reporter of membrane lipid content. We show that, under low-O2 and anaerobic conditions, the total fatty acid content per cell increases 3-fold. We also find that the increases in the amount of fatty acid and photosynthetic pigment per cell are correlated as O2 tensions or light intensity are changed. To ask if lipid and pigment accumulation were genetically separable, we analyzed strains with mutations in known photosynthetic regulatory pathways. While a strain lacking AppA failed to induce photosynthetic pigment-protein complex accumulation, it increased fatty acid content under low-O2 conditions. We also found that an intact PrrBA pathway is required for low-O2-induced fatty acid accumulation. Our findings suggest a previously unknown role of R. sphaeroides transcriptional regulators in increasing fatty acid and phospholipid accumulation in response to decreased O2 tension. Lipids serve important functions in living systems, either as structural components of membranes or as a form of carbon storage. Understanding the mechanisms of lipid accumulation in microorganisms is important for providing insight into the assembly of biological membranes and additionally has important applications in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. In this study, we investigate the ability of Rhodobacter sphaeroides to increase membrane production at low O2 tensions in order to house its photosynthetic apparatus. We demonstrate that this bacterium has a mechanism to increase lipid content in response to decreased O2 tension and identify a transcription factor necessary for this response. This is significant because it identifies a transcriptional regulatory pathway that can increase microbial lipid content.
The proton-translocating NADH:quinone oxidoreductase (complex I) is a multisubunit integral membrane enzyme found in the respiratory chains of both bacteria and eukaryotic organelles. Although much research has focused on the enzyme's central role in the mitochondrial respiratory chain, comparatively little is known about its role in the diverse energetic lifestyles of different bacteria. Here, we used a phylogenomic approach to better understand the distribution of complex I across bacteria, the evolution of this enzyme, and its potential roles in shaping the physiology of different bacterial groups. By surveying 970 representative bacterial genomes, we predict complex I to be present in ~50% of bacteria. While this includes bacteria with a wide range of energetic schemes, the presence of complex I is associated with specific lifestyles, including aerobic respiration and specific types of phototrophy (bacteria with only a type II reaction center). A phylogeny of bacterial complex I revealed five main clades of enzymes whose evolution is largely congruent with the evolution of the bacterial groups that encode complex I. A notable exception includes the gammaproteobacteria, whose members encode one of two distantly related complex I enzymes predicted to participate in different types of respiratory chains (aerobic versus anaerobic). Comparative genomic analyses suggest a broad role for complex I in reoxidizing NADH produced from various catabolic reactions, including the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and fatty acid beta-oxidation. Together, these findings suggest diverse roles for complex I across bacteria and highlight the importance of this enzyme in shaping diverse physiologies across the bacterial domain. Living systems use conserved energy currencies, including a proton motive force (PMF), NADH, and ATP. The respiratory chain enzyme, complex I, connects these energy currencies by using NADH produced during nutrient breakdown to generate a PMF, which is subsequently used for ATP synthesis. Our goal is to better understand the role of complex I in bacteria, whose energetic diversity allows us to view its function in a range of biological contexts. We analyzed sequenced bacterial genomes to predict the presence, evolution, and function of complex I in bacteria. We identified five main classes of bacterial complex I and predict that different classes participate in different types of respiratory chains (aerobic and anaerobic). We also predict that complex I helps maintain a cellular redox state by reoxidizing NADH produced from central metabolism. Our findings suggest diverse roles for complex I in bacterial physiology, highlighting the need for future laboratory-based studies.
Obtaining a better understanding of the physiology and bioenergetics of photosynthetic microbes is an important step toward optimizing these systems for light energy capture or production of valuable commodities. In this work, we analyzed the effect of light intensity on bioproduction, biomass formation, and maintenance energy during photoheterotrophic growth of Rhodobacter sphaeroides. Using data obtained from steady-state bioreactors operated at varying dilution rates and light intensities, we found that irradiance had a significant impact on biomass yield and composition, with significant changes in photopigment, phospholipid, and biopolymer storage contents. We also observed a linear relationship between incident light intensity and H2 production rate between 3 and 10 W m(-2), with saturation observed at 100 W m(-2). The light conversion efficiency to H2 was also higher at lower light intensities. Photosynthetic maintenance energy requirements were also significantly affected by light intensity, with links to differences in biomass composition and the need to maintain redox homeostasis. Inclusion of the measured condition-dependent biomass and maintenance energy parameters and the measured photon uptake rate into a genome-scale metabolic model for R. sphaeroides (iRsp1140) significantly improved its predictive performance. We discuss how our analyses provide new insights into the light-dependent changes in bioenergetic requirements and physiology during photosynthetic growth of R. sphaeroides and potentially other photosynthetic organisms.
Many pathways of carbon and energy metabolism are conserved across the phylogeny, but the networks that regulate their expression or activity often vary considerably among organisms. In this work, we show that two previously uncharacterized transcription factors (TFs) are direct regulators of genes encoding enzymes of central carbon and energy metabolism in the alphaproteobacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides. The LacI family member CceR (RSP_1663) directly represses genes encoding enzymes in the Entner-Doudoroff pathway, while activating those encoding the F1F0 ATPase and enzymes of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and gluconeogenesis, providing a direct transcriptional network connection between carbon and energy metabolism. We identified bases that are important for CceR DNA binding and showed that DNA binding by this TF is inhibited by 6-phosphogluconate. We also showed that the GntR family TF AkgR (RSP_0981) directly activates genes encoding several TCA cycle enzymes, and we identified conditions where its activity is increased. The properties of single and double ΔCceR and ΔAkgR mutants illustrate that these 2 TFs cooperatively regulate carbon and energy metabolism. Comparative genomic analysis indicates that CceR and AkgR orthologs are found in other alphaproteobacteria, where they are predicted to have a conserved function in regulating central carbon metabolism. Our characterization of CceR and AkgR has provided important new insight into the networks that control central carbon and energy metabolism in alphaproteobacteria that can be exploited to modify or engineer new traits in these widespread and versatile bacteria. To extract and conserve energy from nutrients, cells coordinate a set of metabolic pathways into integrated networks. Many pathways that conserve energy or interconvert metabolites are conserved across cells, but the networks regulating these processes are often highly variable. In this study, we characterize two previously unknown transcriptional regulators of carbon and energy metabolism that are conserved in alphaproteobacteria, a group of abundant, environmentally and biotechnologically important organisms. We identify the genes they regulate, the DNA sequences they recognize, the metabolite that controls the activity of one of the regulators, and conditions where they are required for growth. We provide important new insight into conserved cellular networks that can also be used to improve a variety of hosts for converting feedstock into valuable products.
Transcriptional regulatory networks (TRNs) program cells to dynamically alter their gene expression in response to changing internal or environmental conditions. In this study, we develop a novel workflow for generating large-scale TRN models that integrates comparative genomics data, global gene expression analyses, and intrinsic properties of transcription factors (TFs). An assessment of this workflow using benchmark datasets for the well-studied γ-proteobacterium Escherichia coli showed that it outperforms expression-based inference approaches, having a significantly larger area under the precision-recall curve. Further analysis indicated that this integrated workflow captures different aspects of the E. coli TRN than expression-based approaches, potentially making them highly complementary. We leveraged this new workflow and observations to build a large-scale TRN model for the α-Proteobacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides that comprises 120 gene clusters, 1211 genes (including 93 TFs), 1858 predicted protein-DNA interactions and 76 DNA binding motifs. We found that ~67% of the predicted gene clusters in this TRN are enriched for functions ranging from photosynthesis or central carbon metabolism to environmental stress responses. We also found that members of many of the predicted gene clusters were consistent with prior knowledge in R. sphaeroides and/or other bacteria. Experimental validation of predictions from this R. sphaeroides TRN model showed that high precision and recall was also obtained for TFs involved in photosynthesis (PpsR), carbon metabolism (RSP_0489) and iron homeostasis (RSP_3341). In addition, this integrative approach enabled generation of TRNs with increased information content relative to R. sphaeroides TRN models built via other approaches. We also show how this approach can be used to simultaneously produce TRN models for each related organism used in the comparative genomics analysis. Our results highlight the advantages of integrating comparative genomics of closely related organisms with gene expression data to assemble large-scale TRN models with high-quality predictions.
Photosynthesis is a crucial biological process that depends on the interplay of many components. This work analyzed the gene targets for 4 transcription factors: FnrL, PrrA, CrpK and MppG (RSP_2888), which are known or predicted to control photosynthesis in Rhodobacter sphaeroides. Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) identified 52 operons under direct control of FnrL, illustrating its regulatory role in photosynthesis, iron homeostasis, nitrogen metabolism and regulation of sRNA synthesis. Using global gene expression analysis combined with ChIP-seq, we mapped the regulons of PrrA, CrpK and MppG. PrrA regulates ∼34 operons encoding mainly photosynthesis and electron transport functions, while CrpK, a previously uncharacterized Crp-family protein, regulates genes involved in photosynthesis and maintenance of iron homeostasis. Furthermore, CrpK and FnrL share similar DNA binding determinants, possibly explaining our observation of the ability of CrpK to partially compensate for the growth defects of a ΔFnrL mutant. We show that the Rrf2 family protein, MppG, plays an important role in photopigment biosynthesis, as part of an incoherent feed-forward loop with PrrA. Our results reveal a previously unrealized, high degree of combinatorial regulation of photosynthetic genes and significant cross-talk between their transcriptional regulators, while illustrating previously unidentified links between photosynthesis and the maintenance of iron homeostasis.
Identification of unknown compounds is of critical importance in GC/MS applications (metabolomics, environmental toxin identification, sports doping, petroleomics, and biofuel analysis, among many others) and remains a technological challenge. Derivation of elemental composition is the first step to determining the identity of an unknown compound by MS, for which high accuracy mass and isotopomer distribution measurements are critical. Here, we report on the development of a dedicated, applications-grade GC/MS employing an Orbitrap mass analyzer, the GC/Quadrupole-Orbitrap. Built from the basis of the benchtop Orbitrap LC/MS, the GC/Quadrupole-Orbitrap maintains the performance characteristics of the Orbitrap, enables quadrupole-based isolation for sensitive analyte detection, and includes numerous analysis modalities to facilitate structural elucidation. We detail the design and construction of the instrument, discuss its key figures-of-merit, and demonstrate its performance for the characterization of unknown compounds and environmental toxins.
Lignin biosynthesis occurs via radical coupling of guaiacyl and syringyl hydroxycinnamyl alcohol monomers (i.e., "monolignols") through chemical condensation with the growing lignin polymer. With each chain-extension step, monolignols invariably couple at their β-positions, generating chiral centers. Here, we report on activities of bacterial glutathione-S-transferase (GST) enzymes that cleave β-aryl ether bonds in lignin dimers that are composed of different monomeric units. Our data reveal that these sequence-related enzymes from Novosphingobium sp. strain PP1Y, Novosphingobium aromaticivorans strain DSM12444, and Sphingobium sp. strain SYK-6 have conserved functions as β-etherases, catalyzing cleavage of each of the four dimeric α-keto-β-aryl ether-linked substrates (i.e., guaiacyl-β-guaiacyl, guaiacyl-β-syringyl, syringyl-β-guaiacyl, and syringyl-β-syringyl). Although each β-etherase cleaves β-guaiacyl and β-syringyl substrates, we have found that each is stereospecific for a given β-enantiomer in a racemic substrate; LigE and LigP β-etherase homologues exhibited stereospecificity toward β(R)-enantiomers whereas LigF and its homologues exhibited β(S)-stereospecificity. Given the diversity of lignin's monomeric units and the racemic nature of lignin polymers, we propose that bacterial catabolic pathways have overcome the existence of diverse lignin-derived substrates in nature by evolving multiple enzymes with broad substrate specificities. Thus, each bacterial β-etherase is able to cleave β-guaiacyl and β-syringyl ether-linked compounds while retaining either β(R)- or β(S)-stereospecificity.
Microbes hold the key to life. They hold the secrets to our past (as the descendants of the earliest forms of life) and the prospects for our future (as we mine their genes for solutions to some of the planet's most pressing problems, from global warming to antibiotic resistance). However, the piecemeal approach that has defined efforts to study microbial genetic diversity for over 20 years and in over 30,000 genome projects risks squandering that promise. These efforts have covered less than 20% of the diversity of the cultured archaeal and bacterial species, which represent just 15% of the overall known prokaryotic diversity. Here we call for the funding of a systematic effort to produce a comprehensive genomic catalog of all cultured Bacteria and Archaea by sequencing, where available, the type strain of each species with a validly published name (currently∼11,000). This effort will provide an unprecedented level of coverage of our planet's genetic diversity, allow for the large-scale discovery of novel genes and functions, and lead to an improved understanding of microbial evolution and function in the environment.
Fatty acids play important functional and protective roles in living systems. This paper reports on the synthesis of a previously unidentified 19 carbon furan-containing fatty acid, 10,13-epoxy-11-methyl-octadecadienoate (9-(3-methyl-5-pentylfuran-2-yl)nonanoic acid) (19Fu-FA), in phospholipids from Rhodobacter sphaeroides. We show that 19Fu-FA accumulation is increased in cells containing mutations that increase the transcriptional response of this bacterium to singlet oxygen ((1)O2), a reactive oxygen species generated by energy transfer from one or more light-excited donors to molecular oxygen. We identify a previously undescribed class of S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methylases that convert a phospholipid 18 carbon cis unsaturated fatty acyl chain to a 19 carbon methylated trans unsaturated fatty acyl chain (19M-UFA). We also identify genes required for the O2-dependent conversion of this 19M-UFA to 19Fu-FA. Finally, we show that the presence of (1)O2 leads to turnover of 19Fu-Fa in vivo. We propose that furan-containing fatty acids like 19Fu-FA can act as a membrane-bound scavenger of (1)O2, which is naturally produced by integral membrane enzymes of the R. sphaeroides photosynthetic apparatus.
ABSTRACT DksA is a global regulatory protein that, together with the alarmone ppGpp, is required for the "stringent response" to nutrient starvation in the gammaproteobacterium Escherichia coli and for more moderate shifts between growth conditions. DksA modulates the expression of hundreds of genes, directly or indirectly. Mutants lacking a DksA homolog exhibit pleiotropic phenotypes in other gammaproteobacteria as well. Here we analyzed the DksA homolog RSP2654 in the more distantly related Rhodobacter sphaeroides, an alphaproteobacterium. RSP2654 is 42% identical and similar in length to E. coli DksA but lacks the Zn finger motif of the E. coli DksA globular domain. Deletion of the RSP2654 gene results in defects in photosynthetic growth, impaired utilization of amino acids, and an increase in fatty acid content. RSP2654 complements the growth and regulatory defects of an E. coli strain lacking the dksA gene and modulates transcription in vitro with E. coli RNA polymerase (RNAP) similarly to E. coli DksA. RSP2654 reduces RNAP-promoter complex stability in vitro with RNAPs from E. coli or R. sphaeroides, alone and synergistically with ppGpp, suggesting that even though it has limited sequence identity to E. coli DksA (DksAEc), it functions in a mechanistically similar manner. We therefore designate the RSP2654 protein DksARsp. Our work suggests that DksARsp has distinct and important physiological roles in alphaproteobacteria and will be useful for understanding structure-function relationships in DksA and the mechanism of synergy between DksA and ppGpp. IMPORTANCE The role of DksA has been analyzed primarily in the gammaproteobacteria, in which it is best understood for its role in control of the synthesis of the translation apparatus and amino acid biosynthesis. Our work suggests that DksA plays distinct and important physiological roles in alphaproteobacteria, including the control of photosynthesis in Rhodobacter sphaeroides. The study of DksARsp, should be useful for understanding structure-function relationships in the protein, including those that play a role in the little-understood synergy between DksA and ppGpp.
Glutathione-dependent enzymes play important protective, repair, or metabolic roles in cells. In particular, enzymes in the glutathione S-transferase (GST) superfamily function in stress responses, defense systems, or xenobiotic detoxification. Here, we identify novel features of bacterial GSTs that cleave β-aryl ether bonds typically found in plant lignin. Our data reveal several original features of the reaction cycle of these GSTs, including stereospecific substrate recognition and stereoselective formation of β-S-thioether linkages. Products of recombinant GSTs (LigE, LigP, and LigF) are β-S-glutathionyl-α-keto-thioethers that are degraded by a β-S-thioetherase (LigG). All three Lig GSTs produced the ketone product (β-S-glutathionyl-α-veratrylethanone) from an achiral side chain-truncated model substrate (β-guaiacyl-α-veratrylethanone). However, when β-etherase assays were conducted with a racemic model substrate, β-guaiacyl-α-veratrylglycerone, LigE- or LigP-catalyzed reactions yielded only one of two potential product (β-S-glutathionyl-α-veratrylglycerone) epimers, whereas the other diastereomer (differing in configuration at the β-position (i.e. its β-epimer)) was produced only in the LigF-catalyzed reaction. Thus, β-etherase catalysis causes stereochemical inversion of the chiral center, converting a β(R)-substrate to a β(S)-product (LigE and LigP), and a β(S)-substrate to a β(R)-product (LigF). Further, LigG catalyzed glutathione-dependent β-S-thioether cleavage with β-S-glutathionyl-α-veratrylethanone and with β(R)-configured β-S-glutathionyl-α-veratrylglycerone but exhibited no or significantly reduced β-S-thioether-cleaving activity with the β(S)-epimer, demonstrating that LigG is a stereospecific β-thioetherase. We therefore propose that multiple Lig enzymes are needed in this β-aryl etherase pathway in order to cleave the racemic β-ether linkages that are present in the backbone of the lignin polymer.
Improving our understanding of processes at the core of cellular lifestyles can be aided by combining information from genetic analyses, high-throughput experiments and computational predictions. We combined data and predictions derived from phenotypic, physiological, genetic and computational analyses to dissect the metabolic and energetic networks of the facultative photosynthetic bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides. We focused our analysis on pathways crucial to the production and recycling of pyridine nucleotides during aerobic respiratory and anaerobic photosynthetic growth in the presence of an organic electron donor. In particular, we assessed the requirement for NADH/NADPH transhydrogenase enzyme, PntAB during respiratory and photosynthetic growth. Using high-throughput phenotype microarrays (PMs), we found that PntAB is essential for photosynthetic growth in the presence of many organic electron donors, particularly those predicted to require its activity to produce NADPH. Utilizing the genome-scale metabolic model iRsp1095, we predicted alternative routes of NADPH synthesis and used gene expression analyses to show that transcripts from a subset of the corresponding genes were conditionally increased in a ΔpntAB mutant. We then used a combination of metabolic flux predictions and mutational analysis to identify flux redistribution patterns utilized in the ΔpntAB mutant to compensate for the loss of this enzyme. Data generated from metabolic and phenotypic analyses of wild type and mutant cells were used to develop iRsp1140, an expanded genome-scale metabolic reconstruction for R. sphaeroides with improved ability to analyze and predict pathways associated with photosynthesis and other metabolic processes. These analyses increased our understanding of key aspects of the photosynthetic lifestyle, highlighting the added importance of NADPH production under these conditions. It also led to a significant improvement in the predictive capabilities of a metabolic model for the different energetic lifestyles of a facultative organism.
Photoheterotrophic metabolism of two meta-hydroxy-aromatic acids, meta-, para-dihydroxybenzoate (protocatechuate) and meta-hydroxybenzoate, was investigated in Rhodopseudomonas palustris. When protocatechuate was the sole organic carbon source, photoheterotrophic growth in R. palustris was slow relative to cells using compounds known to be metabolized by the benzoyl coenzyme A (benzoyl-CoA) pathway. R. palustris was unable to grow when meta-hydroxybenzoate was provided as a sole source of organic carbon under photoheterotrophic growth conditions. However, in cultures supplemented with known benzoyl-CoA pathway inducers (para-hydroxybenzoate, benzoate, or cyclohexanoate), protocatechuate and meta-hydroxybenzoate were taken up from the culture medium. Further, protocatechuate and meta-hydroxybenzoate were each removed from cultures containing both meta-hydroxy-aromatic acids at equimolar concentrations in the absence of other organic compounds. Analysis of changes in culture optical density and in the concentration of soluble organic compounds indicated that the loss of these meta-hydroxy-aromatic acids was accompanied by biomass production. Additional experiments with defined mutants demonstrated that enzymes known to participate in the dehydroxylation of para-hydroxybenzoyl-CoA (HbaBCD) and reductive dearomatization of benzoyl-CoA (BadDEFG) were required for metabolism of protocatechuate and meta-hydroxybenzoate. These findings indicate that, under photoheterotrophic growth conditions, R. palustris can degrade meta-hydroxy-aromatic acids via the benzoyl-CoA pathway, apparently due to the promiscuity of the enzymes involved.
From the inception of internal combustion engines, biologically derived fuels (biofuels) have played a role. Nicolaus Otto ran a predecessor to today's spark-ignition engine with an ethanol fuel blend in 1860. At the 1900 Paris world's fair, Rudolf Diesel ran his engine on peanut oil. Over 100 years of petroleum production has led to consistency and reliability of engines that demand standardized fuels. New biofuels can displace petroleum-based fuels and produce positive impacts on the environment, the economy, and the use of local energy sources. This review discusses the combustion, performance and other requirements of biofuels that will impact their near-term and long-term ability to replace petroleum fuels in transportation applications.
Singlet oxygen ((1)O(2)) is a reactive oxygen species generated by energy transfer from one or more excited donors to molecular oxygen. Many biomolecules are prone to oxidation by (1)O(2), and cells have evolved systems to protect themselves from damage caused by this compound. One way that the photosynthetic bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides protects itself from (1)O(2) is by inducing a transcriptional response controlled by ChrR, an anti-σ factor which releases an alternative sigma factor, σ(E), in the presence of (1)O(2). Here we report that induction of σ(E)-dependent gene transcription is decreased in the presence of (1)O(2) when two conserved genes in the σ(E) regulon are deleted, including one encoding a cyclopropane fatty acid synthase homologue (RSP2144) or one encoding a protein of unknown function (RSP1091). Thus, we conclude that RSP2144 and RSP1091 are each necessary to increase σ(E) activity in the presence of (1)O(2). In addition, we found that unlike in wild-type cells, where ChrR is rapidly degraded when (1)O(2) is generated, turnover of this anti-σ factor is slowed when cells lacking RSP2144, RSP1091, or both of these proteins are exposed to (1)O(2). Further, we demonstrate that the organic hydroperoxide tert-butyl hydroperoxide promotes ChrR turnover in both wild-type cells and mutants lacking RSP2144 or RSP1091, suggesting differences in the ways different types of oxidants increase σ(E) activity. Oxygen serves many crucial functions on Earth; it is produced during photosynthesis and needed for other pathways. While oxygen is relatively inert, it can be converted to reactive oxygen species (ROS) that destroy biomolecules, cause disease, or kill cells. When energy is transferred to oxygen, the ROS singlet oxygen is generated. To understand how singlet oxygen impacts cells, we study the stress response to this ROS in Rhodobacter sphaeroides, a bacterium that, like plants, generates this compound as a consequence of photosynthesis. This paper identifies proteins that activate a stress response to singlet oxygen and shows that they act in a specific response to this ROS. The identified proteins are found in many free-living, symbiotic, or pathogenic bacteria that can encounter singlet oxygen in nature. Thus, our findings provide new information about a stress response to a ROS of broad biological, agricultural, and biomedical importance.
Bacteria need signal transducing systems to respond to environmental changes. Next to one- and two-component systems, alternative σ factors of the extra-cytoplasmic function (ECF) protein family represent the third fundamental mechanism of bacterial signal transduction. A comprehensive classification of these proteins identified more than 40 phylogenetically distinct groups, most of which are not experimentally investigated. Here, we present the characterization of such a group with unique features, termed ECF41. Among analyzed bacterial genomes, ECF41 σ factors are widely distributed with about 400 proteins from 10 different phyla. They lack obvious anti-σ factors that typically control activity of other ECF σ factors, but their structural genes are often predicted to be cotranscribed with carboxymuconolactone decarboxylases, oxidoreductases, or epimerases based on genomic context conservation. We demonstrate for Bacillus licheniformis and Rhodobacter sphaeroides that the corresponding genes are preceded by a highly conserved promoter motif and are the only detectable targets of ECF41-dependent gene regulation. In contrast to other ECF σ factors, proteins of group ECF41 contain a large C-terminal extension, which is crucial for σ factor activity. Our data demonstrate that ECF41 σ factors are regulated by a novel mechanism based on the presence of a fused regulatory domain.