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1.  Analysis of the Isoprenoid Biosynthesis Pathways in Listeria monocytogenes Reveals a Role for the Alternative 2-C-Methyl-d-Erythritol 4-Phosphate Pathway in Murine Infection▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(11):5392-5401.
Most bacteria synthesize isoprenoids through one of two essential pathways which provide the basic building block, isopentyl diphosphate (IPP): either the classical mevalonate pathway or the alternative non-mevalonate 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. However, postgenomic analyses of the Listeria monocytogenes genome revealed that this pathogen possesses the genetic capacity to produce the complete set of enzymes involved in both pathways. The nonpathogenic species Listeria innocua naturally lacks the last two genes (gcpE and lytB) of the MEP pathway, and bioinformatic analyses strongly suggest that the genes have been lost through evolution. In the present study we show that heterologous expression of gcpE and lytB in L. innocua can functionally restore the MEP pathway in this organism and confer on it the ability to induce Vγ9Vδ2 T cells. We have previously confirmed that both pathways are functional in L. monocytogenes and can provide sufficient IPP for normal growth in laboratory media (M. Begley, C. G. Gahan, A. K. Kollas, M. Hintz, C. Hill, H. Jomaa, and M. Eberl, FEBS Lett. 561:99-104, 2004). Here we describe a targeted mutagenesis strategy to create a double pathway mutant in L. monocytogenes which cannot grow in the absence of exogenously provided mevalonate, confirming the requirement for at least one intact pathway for growth. In addition, murine studies revealed that mutants lacking the MEP pathway were impaired in virulence relative to the parent strain during intraperitoneal infection, while mutants lacking the classical mevalonate pathway were not impaired in virulence potential. In vivo bioluminescence imaging also confirmed in vivo expression of the gcpE gene (MEP pathway) during murine infection.
PMCID: PMC2573353  PMID: 18765739
2.  The Sorbitol Phosphotransferase System Is Responsible for Transport of 2-C-Methyl-d-Erythritol into Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(2):473-480.
2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate is the first committed intermediate in the biosynthesis of the isoprenoid precursors isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate. Supplementation of the growth medium with 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol has been shown to complement disruptions in the Escherichia coli gene for 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase, the enzyme that synthesizes the immediate precursor of 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate. In order to be utilized in isoprenoid biosynthesis, 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol must be phosphorylated. We describe the construction of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium strain RMC26, in which the essential gene encoding 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase has been disrupted by insertion of a synthetic mevalonate operon consisting of the yeast ERG8, ERG12, and ERG19 genes, responsible for converting mevalonate to isopentenyl diphosphate under the control of an arabinose-inducible promoter. Random mutagenesis of RMC26 produced defects in the sorbitol phosphotransferase system that prevented the transport of 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol into the cell. RMC26 and mutant strains of RMC26 unable to grow on 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol were incubated in buffer containing mevalonate and deuterium-labeled 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol. Ubiquinone-8 was isolated from these cells and analyzed for deuterium content. Efficient incorporation of deuterium was observed for RMC26. However, there was no evidence of deuterium incorporation into the isoprenoid side chain of ubiquinone Q8 in the RMC26 mutants.
PMCID: PMC305747  PMID: 14702317
3.  aarC, an essential gene involved in density-dependent regulation of the 2'-N-acetyltransferase in Providencia stuartii. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(7):2267-2273.
The 2'-N-acetyltransferase [AAC(2')-Ia] in Providencia stuartii has a dual function where it is involved in the acetylation of peptidoglycan and certain aminoglycosides. A search for negative regulators of the aac(2')-Ia gene has resulted in the identification of aarC. A missense allele (aarC1) resulted in an 8.9-fold increase in beta-galactosidase accumulation from an aac(2')-lacZ transcriptional fusion. Northern blot analysis demonstrated an increase in aac(2')-Ia mRNA accumulation that was specific to cells at high density. In addition, the aarC1 allele also resulted in a substantial increase in the expression of aarP, a transcriptional activator of the aac(2')-Ia gene. The wild-type aarC gene was isolated by complementation and encodes a predicted protein of 365 amino acids with a molecular mass of 39,815 Da. The predicted AarC protein exhibited 88% amino acid homology to the previously identified GcpE protein of Escherichia coli and 86% homology to a gene product from Haemophilus influenzae. The E. coli gcpE gene was able to functionally complement the aarC1 allele in P. stuartii. The aarC1 allele was identified as a T to G transversion that resulted in a valine to glycine substitution at position 136 in the AarC protein. The aarC gene appears to be essential for cell viability as construction of a disrupted copy (aarC::lacZ) was possible only in cells that carried an episomal copy of aarC or gcpE.
PMCID: PMC178963  PMID: 9079912
4.  The Nonmevalonate Pathway of Isoprenoid Biosynthesis in Mycobacterium tuberculosis Is Essential and Transcriptionally Regulated by Dxs ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(9):2424-2433.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis synthesizes isoprenoids via the nonmevalonate or DOXP pathway. Previous work demonstrated that three enzymes in the pathway (Dxr, IspD, and IspF) are all required for growth in vitro. We demonstrate the essentiality of the key genes dxs1 and gcpE, confirming that the pathway is of central importance and that the second homolog of the synthase (dxs2) cannot compensate for the loss of dxs1. We looked at the effect of overexpression of Dxr, Dxs1, Dxs2, and GcpE on viability and on growth in M. tuberculosis. Overexpression of dxs1 or dxs2 was inhibitory to growth, whereas overexpression of dxr or gcpE was not. Toxicity is likely to be, at least partially, due to depletion of pyruvate from the cells. Overexpression of dxs1 or gcpE resulted in increased flux through the pathway, as measured by accumulation of the metabolite 4-hydroxy-3-methyl-but-2-enyl pyrophosphate. We identified the functional translational start site and promoter region for dxr and demonstrated that it is expressed as part of a polycistronic mRNA with gcpE and two other genes. Increased expression of this operon was seen in cells overexpressing Dxs1, indicating that transcriptional control is effected by the first enzyme of the pathway via an unknown regulator.
PMCID: PMC2863480  PMID: 20172995
5.  The lytB Gene of Escherichia coli Is Essential and Specifies a Product Needed for Isoprenoid Biosynthesis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(24):7403-7407.
LytB and GcpE, because they are codistributed with other pathway enzymes, have been predicted to catalyze unknown steps in the nonmevalonate pathway for isoprenoid biosynthesis. We constructed a conditional Escherichia coli lytB mutant and found that LytB is essential for survival and that depletion of LytB results in cell lysis, which is consistent with a role for this protein in isoprenoid biosynthesis. Alcohols which can be converted to pathway intermediates beyond the hypothesized LytB step(s) support limited growth of E. coli lytB mutants. An informatic analysis of protein structure suggested that GcpE is a globular protein of the TIM barrel class and that LytB is also a globular protein. Possible biochemical roles for LytB and GcpE are suggested.
PMCID: PMC95591  PMID: 11717301
6.  Increasing diterpene yield with a modular metabolic engineering system in E. coli: comparison of MEV and MEP isoprenoid precursor pathway engineering 
Engineering biosynthetic pathways in heterologous microbial host organisms offers an elegant approach to pathway elucidation via the incorporation of putative biosynthetic enzymes and characterization of resulting novel metabolites. Our previous work in Escherichia coli demonstrated the feasibility of a facile modular approach to engineering the production of labdane-related diterpene (20 carbon) natural products. However, yield was limited (<0.1 mg/L), presumably due to reliance on endogenous production of the isoprenoid precursors dimethylallyl diphosphate and isopentenyl diphosphate. Here, we report incorporation of either a heterologous mevalonate pathway (MEV) or enhancement of the endogenous methyl erythritol phosphate pathway (MEP) with our modular metabolic engineering system. With MEP pathway enhancement, it was found that pyruvate supplementation of rich media and simultaneous overexpression of three genes (idi, dxs, and dxr) resulted in the greatest increase in diterpene yield, indicating distributed metabolic control within this pathway. Incorporation of a heterologous MEV pathway in bioreactor grown cultures resulted in significantly higher yields than MEP pathway enhancement. We have established suitable growth conditions for diterpene production levels ranging from 10 to >100 mg/L of E. coli culture. These amounts are sufficient for nuclear magnetic resonance analyses, enabling characterization of enzymatic products and hence, pathway elucidation. Furthermore, these results represent an up to >1,000-fold improvement in diterpene production from our facile, modular platform, with MEP pathway enhancement offering a cost effective alternative with reasonable yield. Finally, we reiterate here that this modular approach is expandable and should be easily adaptable to the production of any terpenoid natural product.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-009-2219-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2811251  PMID: 19777230
Terpenoid; Natural products biosynthesis; Metabolic engineering; Isoprenoid
7.  Development of a multi-gene expression system in Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous 
Microbial Cell Factories  2014;13(1):175.
Red yeast, Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous (Phaffia rhodozyma) is the only yeast known to produce astaxanthin, an anti-oxidant isoprenoid (carotenoid) that is widely used in the aquaculture, food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. Recently, the potential of this microorganism as a platform cell factory for isoprenoid production has been recognized because of high flux through its native terpene pathway. Addition of mevalonate, the common precursor for isoprenoid biosynthesis, has been shown to be critical to enhance the astaxanthin content in X. dendrorhous. However, addition of mevalonate is unrealistic during industrial isoprenoid production because it is an unstable and costly chemical. Therefore, up-regulating the intracellular mevalonate supply by enhancing the mevalonate synthetic pathway though genetic engineering is a promising strategy to improve isoprenoid production in X. dendrorhous. However, a system to strongly express multiple genes has been poorly developed for X. dendrorhous.
Here, we developed a multiple gene expression system using plasmids containing three strong promoters in X. dendrorhous (actin, alcohol dehydrogenase and triose-phosphate isomerase) and their terminators. Using this system, three mevalonate synthetic pathway genes encoding acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase, HMG-CoA synthase and HMG-CoA reductase were overexpressed at the same time. This triple overexpressing strain showed an increase in astaxanthin production compared with each single overexpressing strain. Additionally, this triple overexpression of mevalonate synthetic pathway genes together with genes involved in β-carotene and astaxanthin synthesis showed a synergetic effect on increasing astaxanthin production. Finally, astaxanthin production was enhanced by 2.1-fold compared with the parental strain without a reduction of cell growth.
We developed a system to strongly overexpress multiple genes in X. dendrorhous. Using this system, the synthetic pathway of mevalonate, a common substrate for isoprenoid biosynthesis, was enhanced, causing an increase in astaxanthin production. Combining this multiple gene overexpression system with a platform strain that overproduces mevalonate has the potential to improve industrial production of various isoprenoids in X. dendrorhous.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12934-014-0175-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4264253  PMID: 25471659
Isoprenoid; Carotenoid; Astaxanthin; Mevalonate; Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous; Phaffia rhodozyma; Metabolic engineering; Cell factory
8.  Overexpressing 3-Hydroxy-3-Methylglutaryl Coenzyme A Reductase (HMGR) in the Lactococcal Mevalonate Pathway for Heterologous Plant Sesquiterpene Production 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52444.
Isoprenoids are a large and diverse group of metabolites with interesting properties such as flavour, fragrance and therapeutic properties. They are produced via two pathways, the mevalonate pathway or the 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol-4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. While plants are the richest source of isoprenoids, they are not the most efficient producers. Escherichia coli and yeasts have been extensively studied as heterologous hosts for plant isoprenoids production. In the current study, we describe the usage of the food grade Lactococcus lactis as a potential heterologous host for the production of sesquiterpenes from a local herbaceous Malaysian plant, Persicaria minor (synonym Polygonum minus). A sesquiterpene synthase gene from P. minor was successfully cloned and expressed in L. lactis. The expressed protein was identified to be a β-sesquiphellandrene synthase as it was demonstrated to be functional in producing β-sesquiphellandrene at 85.4% of the total sesquiterpenes produced based on in vitro enzymatic assays. The recombinant L. lactis strain developed in this study was also capable of producing β-sesquiphellandrene in vivo without exogenous substrates supplementation. In addition, overexpression of the strain’s endogenous 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme-A reductase (HMGR), an established rate-limiting enzyme in the eukaryotic mevalonate pathway, increased the production level of β-sesquiphellandrene by 1.25–1.60 fold. The highest amount achieved was 33 nM at 2 h post-induction.
PMCID: PMC3530464  PMID: 23300671
9.  Isoprenoid Biosynthesis in Synechocystis sp. Strain PCC6803 Is Stimulated by Compounds of the Pentose Phosphate Cycle but Not by Pyruvate or Deoxyxylulose-5-Phosphate 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(18):5045-5051.
The photosynthetic cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. strain PCC6803 possesses homologs of known genes of the non-mevalonate 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 2-phosphate (MEP) pathway for synthesis of isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). Isoprenoid biosynthesis in extracts of this cyanobacterium, measured by incorporation of radiolabeled IPP, was not stimulated by pyruvate, an initial substrate of the MEP pathway in Escherichia coli, or by deoxyxylulose-5-phosphate, the first pathway intermediate in E. coli. However, high rates of IPP incorporation were obtained with addition of dihydroxyacetone phosphate (DHAP) and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (GA3P), as well as a variety of pentose phosphate cycle compounds. Fosmidomycin (at 1 μM and 1 mM), an inhibitor of deoxyxylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase, did not significantly inhibit phototrophic growth of the cyanobacterium, nor did it affect [14C]IPP incorporation stimulated by DHAP plus GA3P. To date, it has not been possible to unequivocally demonstrate IPP isomerase activity in this cyanobacterium. The combined results suggest that the MEP pathway, as described for E. coli, is not the primary path by which isoprenoids are synthesized under photosynthetic conditions in Synechocystis sp. strain PCC6803. Our data support alternative routes of entry of pentose phosphate cycle substrates derived from photosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC135332  PMID: 12193620
10.  Lethal Mutations in the Isoprenoid Pathway of Salmonella enterica 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(4):1444-1450.
Essential isoprenoid compounds are synthesized using the 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway in many gram-negative bacteria, some gram-positive bacteria, some apicomplexan parasites, and plant chloroplasts. The alternative mevalonate pathway is found in archaea and eukaryotes, including cytosolic biosynthesis in plants. The existence of orthogonal essential pathways in eukaryotes and bacteria makes the MEP pathway an attractive target for the development of antimicrobial agents. A system is described for identifying mutations in the MEP pathway of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Using this system, point mutations induced by diethyl sulfate were found in the all genes of the essential MEP pathway and also in genes involved in uptake of methylerythritol. Curiously, none of the MEP pathway genes could be identified in the same parent strain by transposon mutagenesis, despite extensive searches. The results complement the biochemical and bioinformatic approaches to the elucidation of the genes involved in the MEP pathway and also identify key residues for activity in the enzymes of the pathway.
PMCID: PMC1367239  PMID: 16452427
11.  A triclinic crystal form of Escherichia coli 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase and reassessment of the quaternary structure 
The structure of a triclinic crystal form of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase has been determined. Comparisons with a previously reported monoclinic crystal form raise questions about our knowledge of the quaternary structure of this enzyme.
4-Diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase (IspE; EC contributes to the 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate or mevalonate-independent biosynthetic pathway that produces the isomers isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate. These five-carbon compounds are the fundamental building blocks for the biosynthesis of isoprenoids. The mevalonate-independent pathway does not occur in humans, but is present and has been shown to be essential in many dangerous pathogens, i.e. Plasmodium species, which cause malaria, and Gram-negative bacteria. Thus, the enzymes involved in this pathway have attracted attention as potential drug targets. IspE produces 4-­diphosphos­phocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol 2-phosphate by ATP-dependent phosphorylation of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol. A triclinic crystal structure of the Escherichia coli IspE–ADP complex with two molecules in the asymmetric unit was determined at 2 Å resolution and compared with a monoclinic crystal form of a ternary complex of E. coli IspE also with two molecules in the asymmetric unit. The molecular packing is different in the two forms. In the asymmetric unit of the triclinic crystal form the substrate-binding sites of IspE are occluded by structural elements of the partner, suggesting that the ‘triclinic dimer’ is an artefact of the crystal lattice. The surface area of interaction in the triclinic form is almost double that observed in the monoclinic form, implying that the dimeric assembly in the monoclinic form may also be an artifact of crystallization.
PMCID: PMC2833027  PMID: 20208151
mevalonate-independent pathway; isoprenoid biosynthesis; kinases
12.  Two distinct pathways for essential metabolic precursors for isoprenoid biosynthesis 
Isoprenoids are a diverse group of molecules found in all organisms, where they perform such important biological functions as hormone signaling (e.g., steroids) in mammals, antioxidation (e.g., carotenoids) in plants, electron transport (e.g., ubiquinone), and cell wall biosynthesis intermediates in bacteria. All isoprenoids are synthesized by the consecutive condensation of the five-carbon monomer isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) to its isomer, dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). The biosynthetic pathway for the formation of IPP from acetyl-CoA (i.e., the mevalonate pathway) had been established mainly in mice and the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Curiously, most prokaryotic microorganisms lack homologs of the genes in the mevalonate pathway, even though IPP and DMAPP are essential for isoprenoid biosynthesis in bacteria. This observation provided an impetus to search for an alternative pathway to synthesize IPP and DMAPP, ultimately leading to the discovery of the mevalonate-independent 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate pathway. This review article focuses on our significant contributions to a comprehensive understanding of the biosynthesis of IPP and DMAPP.
PMCID: PMC3365244  PMID: 22450534
biosynthesis; inhibitor; isoprenoid; MEP pathway; mevalonate pathway; terpenoid
13.  Characterization of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis 4-Diphosphocytidyl-2-C-Methyl-d-Erythritol Synthase: Potential for Drug Development▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(24):8922-8927.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis utilizes the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway for biosynthesis of isopentenyl diphosphate and its isomer, dimethylallyl diphosphate, precursors of all isoprenoid compounds. This pathway is of interest as a source of new drug targets, as it is absent from humans and disruption of the responsible genes has shown a lethal phenotype for Escherichia coli. In the MEP pathway, 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol is formed from 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) and CTP in a reaction catalyzed by a 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol synthase (IspD). In the present work, we demonstrate that Rv3582c is essential for M. tuberculosis: Rv3582c has been cloned and expressed, and the encoded protein has been purified. The purified M. tuberculosis IspD protein was capable of catalyzing the formation of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol in the presence of MEP and CTP. The enzyme was active over a broad pH range (pH 6.0 to 9.0), with peak activity at pH 8.0. The activity was absolutely dependent upon divalent cations, with 20 mM Mg2+ being optimal, and replacement of CTP with other nucleotide 5′-triphosphates did not support activity. Under the conditions tested, M. tuberculosis IspD had Km values of 58.5 μM for MEP and 53.2 μM for CTP. Calculated kcat and kcat/Km values were 0.72 min−1 and 12.3 mM−1 min−1 for MEP and 1.0 min−1 and 18.8 mM−1 min−1 for CTP, respectively.
PMCID: PMC2168624  PMID: 17921290
14.  Complete blockage of the mevalonate pathway results in male gametophyte lethality 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;60(7):2055-2064.
Plants have two isoprenoid biosynthetic pathways: the cytosolic mevalonate (MVA) pathway and the plastidic 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. Since the discovery of the MEP pathway, possible metabolic cross-talk between these pathways has prompted intense research. Although many studies have shown the existence of such cross-talk using feeding experiments, it remains to be determined if native cross-talk, rather than exogenously applied metabolites, can compensate for complete blockage of the MVA pathway. Previously, Arabidopsis mutants for HMG1 and HMG2 encoding HMG-CoA reductase (HMGR) were isolated. Although it was shown that HMGR1 is a functional HMGR, the enzyme activity of HMGR2 has not been confirmed. It is demonstrated here that HMG2 encodes a functional reductase with similar activity to HMGR1, using enzyme assays and complementation experiments. To estimate the contribution of native cross-talk, an attempt was made to block the MVA pathway by making double mutants lacking both HMG1 and HMG2, but no double homozygotes were detected in the progeny of self-pollinated HMG1/hmg1 hmg2/hmg2 plants. hmg1 hmg2 male gametophytes appeared to be lethal based on crossing experiments, and microscopy indicated that ∼50% of the microspores from the HMG1/hmg1 hmg2/hmg2 plant appeared shrunken and exhibited poorly defined endoplasmic reticulum membranes. In situ hybridization showed that HMG1 transcripts were expressed in both the tapetum and microspores, while HMG2 mRNA appeared only in microspores. It is concluded that native cross-talk from the plastid cannot compensate for complete blockage of the MVA pathway, at least during male gametophyte development, because either HMG1 or HMG2 is required for male gametophyte development.
PMCID: PMC2682496  PMID: 19363204
Anther; cross-talk; HMG-CoA reductase; isoprenoid; male gametophyte; MEP pathway; MVA pathway; pollen; sterol; tapetum
15.  A second target of the antimalarial and antibacterial agent fosmidomycin revealed by cellular metabolic profiling† 
Biochemistry  2011;50(17):3570-3577.
Antimicrobial drug resistance is an urgent problem in control and treatment of many of the world's most serious infections, including Plasmodium falciparum malaria, tuberculosis, and healthcare-associated infections with Gram-negative bacteria. Because the non-mevalonate pathway of isoprenoid biosynthesis is essential in eubacteria and P. falciparum, and this pathway is not present in humans, there is great interest in targeting the enzymes of non-mevalonate metabolism for antibacterial and antiparasitic drug development. Fosmidomycin is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent currently in clinical trials of combination therapies to treat malaria. In vitro, fosmidomycin is known to inhibit the deoxyxylulose phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR) enzyme of isoprenoid biosynthesis from multiple pathogenic organisms. To define the in vivo metabolic response to fosmidomycin, we developed a novel mass spectrometry method to quantitate six metabolites of non-mevalonate isoprenoid metabolism from complex biological samples. Using this technique, we validate that the biological effects of fosmidomycin are mediated through blockade of de novo isoprenoid biosynthesis in both P. falciparum malaria parasites and E. coli bacteria: in both organisms, metabolic profiling demonstrated a block in isoprenoid metabolism following fosmidomycin treatment, and growth inhibition due to fosmidomycin was rescued by media supplemented with isoprenoid metabolites. Isoprenoid metabolism proceeded through DXR even in the presence of fosmidomycin, but was inhibited at the level of the downstream enzyme, methylerythritol phosphate cytidyltransferase (IspD). Overexpression of IspD in E. coli conferred fosmidomycin resistance, and fosmidomycin was found to inhibit IspD in vitro. This work has validated fosmidomycin as a biological reagent to block non-mevalonate isoprenoid metabolism, and suggests a second in vivo target for fosmidomycin within isoprenoid biosynthesis, in two evolutionarily diverse pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3082593  PMID: 21438569
16.  Conditional Lethal Amber Mutations in Essential Escherichia coli Genes†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(9):2673-2681.
The essential genes of microorganisms encode biological functions important for survival and thus tend to be of high scientific interest. Drugs that interfere with essential functions are likely to be interesting candidates for antimicrobials. However, these genes are hard to study genetically because knockout mutations in them are by definition inviable. We recently described a conditional mutation system in Escherichia coli that uses a plasmid to produce an amber suppressor tRNA regulated by the arabinose promoter. This suppressor was used here in the construction of amber mutations in seven essential E. coli genes. Amber stop codons were introduced as “tagalong” mutations in the flanking DNA of a downstream antibiotic resistance marker by lambda red recombination. The drug marker was removed by expression of I-SceI meganuclease, leaving a markerless mutation. We demonstrate the method with the genes frr, gcpE, lpxC, map, murA, ppa, and rpsA. We were unable to isolate an amber mutation in ftsZ. Kinetics of cell death and morphological changes were measured following removal of arabinose. As expected given the wide range of cellular mechanisms represented, different mutants showed widely different death curves. All of the mutations were bactericidal except the mutation in gcpE, which was bacteriostatic. The strain carrying an amber mutation in murA was by far the most sensitive, showing rapid killing in nonpermissive medium. The MurA protein is critical for peptidoglycan synthesis and is the target for the antibiotic fosfomycin. Such experiments may inexpensively provide valuable information for the identification and prioritization of targets for antibiotic development.
PMCID: PMC387789  PMID: 15090508
17.  A Whole-Cell Phenotypic Screening Platform for Identifying Methylerythritol Phosphate Pathway-Selective Inhibitors as Novel Antibacterial Agents 
Isoprenoid biosynthesis is essential for survival of all living organisms. More than 50,000 unique isoprenoids occur naturally, with each constructed from two simple five-carbon precursors: isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). Two pathways for the biosynthesis of IPP and DMAPP are found in nature. Humans exclusively use the mevalonate (MVA) pathway, while most bacteria, including all Gram-negative and many Gram-positive species, use the unrelated methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway. Here we report the development of a novel, whole-cell phenotypic screening platform to identify compounds that selectively inhibit the MEP pathway. Strains of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium were engineered to have separately inducible MEP (native) and MVA (nonnative) pathways. These strains, RMC26 and CT31-7d, were then used to differentiate MVA pathway- and MEP pathway-specific perturbation. Compounds that inhibit MEP pathway-dependent bacterial growth but leave MVA-dependent growth unaffected represent MEP pathway-selective antibacterials. This screening platform offers three significant results. First, the compound is antibacterial and is therefore cell permeant, enabling access to the intracellular target. Second, the compound inhibits one or more MEP pathway enzymes. Third, the MVA pathway is unaffected, suggesting selectivity for targeting the bacterial versus host pathway. The cell lines also display increased sensitivity to two reported MEP pathway-specific inhibitors, further biasing the platform toward inhibitors selective for the MEP pathway. We demonstrate development of a robust, high-throughput screening platform that combines phenotypic and target-based screening that can identify MEP pathway-selective antibacterials simply by monitoring optical density as the readout for cell growth/inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3421842  PMID: 22777049
18.  Identification of Novel Small Molecule Inhibitors of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-D-erythritol (CDP-ME) kinase of Gram-negative bacteria 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2011;19(19):5886-5895.
The biosyntheses of isoprenoids is essential for the survival in all living organisms, and requires one of the two biochemical pathways: (a) Mevalonate (MVA) Pathway or (b) Methylerythritol Phosphate (MEP) Pathway. The latter pathway, which is used by all Gram-negative bacteria, some Gram-positive bacteria and a few apicomplexan protozoa, provides an attractive target for the development of new antimicrobials because of its absence in humans. In this report, we describe two different approaches that we used to identify novel small molecule inhibitors of Escherichia coli and Yersinia pestis 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl D-erythritol (CDP-ME) kinases, key enzymes of the MEP pathway encoded by the E. coli ispE and Y. pestis ipk genes, respectively. In the first approach, we explored existing inhibitors of the GHMP kinases while in the second approach; we performed computational high-throughput screening of compound libraries by targeting the CDP-ME binding site of the two bacterial enzymes. From the first approach, we identified two compounds with 6-(benzylthio)-2-(2-hydroxyphenyl)-4-oxo-3,4-dihydro-2H-1,3-thiazine-5-carbonitrile and (Z)-3-methyl-4-((5-phenylfuran-2-yl)methylene)isoxazol-5(4H)-one scaffolds which inhibited Escherichia coli CDP-ME kinase in vitro. We then performed substructure search and docking experiments based on these two scaffolds and identified twenty three analogs for structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies. Three new compounds from the isoxazol-5(4H)-one series have shown inhibitory activities against E. coli and Y. pestis CDP-ME kinases with the IC50 values ranging from 7μM to 13μM. The second approach by computational high-throughput screening (HTS) of two million drug-like compounds yielded two compounds with benzenesulfonamide and acetamide moieties which, at a concentration of 20μM, inhibited 80% and 65%, respectively, of control CDP-ME kinase activity.
PMCID: PMC3188437  PMID: 21903402
19.  Reconstruction and Evaluation of the Synthetic Bacterial MEP Pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52498.
Isoprenoids, which are a large group of natural and chemical compounds with a variety of applications as e.g. fragrances, pharmaceuticals and potential biofuels, are produced via two different metabolic pathways, the mevalonate (MVA) pathway and the 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. Here, we attempted to replace the endogenous MVA pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae by a synthetic bacterial MEP pathway integrated into the genome to benefit from its superior properties in terms of energy consumption and productivity at defined growth conditions. It was shown that the growth of a MVA pathway deficient S. cerevisiae strain could not be restored by the heterologous MEP pathway even when accompanied by the co-expression of genes erpA, hISCA1 and CpIscA involved in the Fe-S trafficking routes leading to maturation of IspG and IspH and E. coli genes fldA and fpr encoding flavodoxin and flavodoxin reductase believed to be responsible for electron transfer to IspG and IspH.
PMCID: PMC3532213  PMID: 23285068
20.  Synthesis of chirally pure 1-deoxy-d-xylulose-5-phosphate : A substrate for IspC assay to determine M. tb inhibitor 
Chemical sciences journal  2013;4(2):22305.
1-Deoxy-D-xylulsose-5-phosphate (DXP) is a key intermediate in the non-mevalonate or methyl erythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway for the biosynthesis of isoprenoid, which are essential building blocks involved in the construction of pathogens growth. Since the homologous enzymes of this pathway are not present in vertebrates, including humans, the MEP pathway presents a viable source for antimicrobial drug targets. However, an insight into the features of the enzymes involved in this pathway has been plagued by lack of chirally pure substrates. Here in, we report an efficient synthesis of enantiomerically pure 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate from commercially available 1,2-O-isopropylidene-α-D-xylofuranose through Weinreb amide formation in shorter route.
PMCID: PMC4032121  PMID: 24860687
21.  Formal Synthesis of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl D-erythritol From D-(+)-Arabitol 
Tetrahedron  2012;68(43):8937-8941.
2-C-methyl-D-erythritol-4-phosphate (MEP) is a key chemical intermediate of the non-mevalonate pathway for isoprenoid biosynthesis employed by many pathogenic microbes. MEP is also the precursor for the synthesis of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl D-erythritol (CDP-ME), another key intermediate of the non-mevalonate pathway. As this pathway is non-existent in higher animals, including humans, it represents great opportunities for novel antimicrobial development. To facilitate the in-depth studies of this pathway, we reported here a formal synthesis of CDP-ME through a new synthesis of 2-C-Methyl-D-erythritol-4-phosphoric acid from D-(+)-arabitol.
PMCID: PMC3462025  PMID: 23049145
MEP; CDP-ME; selective phosphorylation; dioxanone; monophosphate
22.  Expression of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase, p-hydroxybenzoate-m-geranyltransferase and genes of phenylpropanoid pathway exhibits positive correlation with shikonins content in arnebia [Arnebia euchroma (Royle) Johnston] 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:88.
Geranyl pyrophosphate (GPP) and p-hydroxybenzoate (PHB) are the basic precursors involved in shikonins biosynthesis. GPP is derived from mevalonate (MVA) and/or 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway(s), depending upon the metabolite and the plant system under consideration. PHB, however, is synthesized by only phenylpropanoid (PP) pathway. GPP and PHB are central moieties to yield shikonins through the synthesis of m-geranyl-p-hydroxybenzoate (GHB). Enzyme p-hydroxybenzoate-m-geranyltransferase (PGT) catalyses the coupling of GPP and PHB to yield GHB.
The present research was carried out in shikonins yielding plant arnebia [Arnebia euchroma (Royle) Johnston], wherein no molecular work has been reported so far. The objective of the work was to identify the preferred GPP synthesizing pathway for shikonins biosynthesis, and to determine the regulatory genes involved in the biosynthesis of GPP, PHB and GHB.
A cell suspension culture-based, low and high shikonins production systems were developed to facilitate pathway identification and finding the regulatory gene. Studies with mevinolin and fosmidomycin, inhibitors of MVA and MEP pathway, respectively suggested MVA as a preferred route of GPP supply for shikonins biosynthesis in arnebia. Accordingly, genes of MVA pathway (eight genes), PP pathway (three genes), and GHB biosynthesis were cloned. Expression studies showed down-regulation of all the genes in response to mevinolin treatment, whereas gene expression was not influenced by fosmidomycin. Expression of all the twelve genes vis-à-vis shikonins content in low and high shikonins production system, over a period of twelve days at frequent intervals, identified critical genes of shikonins biosynthesis in arnebia.
A positive correlation between shikonins content and expression of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (AeHMGR) and AePGT suggested critical role played by these genes in shikonins biosynthesis. Higher expression of genes of PP pathway was a general feature for higher shikonins biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3002352  PMID: 21092138
23.  Identification, Evolution, and Essentiality of the Mevalonate Pathway for Isopentenyl Diphosphate Biosynthesis in Gram-Positive Cocci 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(15):4319-4327.
The mevalonate pathway and the glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (GAP)–pyruvate pathway are alternative routes for the biosynthesis of the central isoprenoid precursor, isopentenyl diphosphate. Genomic analysis revealed that the staphylococci, streptococci, and enterococci possess genes predicted to encode all of the enzymes of the mevalonate pathway and not the GAP-pyruvate pathway, unlike Bacillus subtilis and most gram-negative bacteria studied, which possess only components of the latter pathway. Phylogenetic and comparative genome analyses suggest that the genes for mevalonate biosynthesis in gram-positive cocci, which are highly divergent from those of mammals, were horizontally transferred from a primitive eukaryotic cell. Enterococci uniquely encode a bifunctional protein predicted to possess both 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase and acetyl-CoA acetyltransferase activities. Genetic disruption experiments have shown that five genes encoding proteins involved in this pathway (HMG-CoA synthase, HMG-CoA reductase, mevalonate kinase, phosphomevalonate kinase, and mevalonate diphosphate decarboxylase) are essential for the in vitro growth of Streptococcus pneumoniae under standard conditions. Allelic replacement of the HMG-CoA synthase gene rendered the organism auxotrophic for mevalonate and severely attenuated in a murine respiratory tract infection model. The mevalonate pathway thus represents a potential antibacterial target in the low-G+C gram-positive cocci.
PMCID: PMC101949  PMID: 10894743
24.  Retinoid production using metabolically engineered Escherichia coli with a two-phase culture system 
Retinoids are lipophilic isoprenoids composed of a cyclic group and a linear chain with a hydrophilic end group. These compounds include retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, retinyl esters, and various derivatives of these structures. Retinoids are used as cosmetic agents and effective pharmaceuticals for skin diseases. Retinal, an immediate precursor of retinoids, is derived by β-carotene 15,15'-mono(di)oxygenase (BCM(D)O) from β-carotene, which is synthesized from the isoprenoid building blocks isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). Retinoids are chemically unstable and biologically degraded via retinoic acid. Although extensive studies have been performed on the microbial production of carotenoids, retinoid production using microbial metabolic engineering has not been reported. Here, we report retinoid production using engineered Escherichia coli that express exogenous BCM(D)O and the mevalonate (MVA) pathway for the building blocks synthesis in combination with a two-phase culture system using a dodecane overlay.
Among the BCM(D)O tested in E. coli, the synthetic retinoid synthesis protein (SR), based on bacteriorhodopsin-related protein-like homolog (Blh) of the uncultured marine bacteria 66A03, showed the highest β-carotene cleavage activity with no residual intracellular β-carotene. By introducing the exogenous MVA pathway, 8.7 mg/L of retinal was produced, which is 4-fold higher production than that of augmenting the MEP pathway (dxs overexpression). There was a large gap between retinal production and β-carotene consumption using the exogenous MVA pathway; therefore, the retinal derivatives were analyzed. The derivatives, except for retinoic acid, that formed were identified, and the levels of retinal, retinol, and retinyl acetate were measured. Amounts as high as 95 mg/L retinoids were obtained from engineered E. coli DH5α harboring the synthetic SR gene and the exogenous MVA pathway in addition to dxs overexpression, which were cultured at 29°C for 72 hours with 2YT medium containing 2.0% (w/v) glycerol as the main carbon source. However, a significant level of intracellular degradation of the retinoids was also observed in the culture. To prevent degradation of the intracellular retinoids through in situ extraction from the cells, a two-phase culture system with dodecane was used. The highest level of retinoid production (136 mg/L) was obtained after 72 hours with 5 mL of dodecane overlaid on a 5 mL culture.
In this study, we successfully produced 136 mg/L retinoids, which were composed of 67 mg/L retinal, 54 mg/L retinol, and 15 mg/L retinyl acetate, using a two-phase culture system with dodecane, which produced 68-fold more retinoids than the initial level of production (2.2 mg/L). Our results demonstrate the potential use of E. coli as a promising microbial cell factory for retinoid production.
PMCID: PMC3160355  PMID: 21801353
25.  A double mutation of Escherichia coli 2C-methyl-d-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase disrupts six hydrogen bonds with, yet fails to prevent binding of, an isoprenoid diphosphate 
A double mutation designed to disrupt binding of isoprenoid diphosphate to an enzyme involved in isoprenoid biosynthesis was made and the structure determined. Despite the removal of six hydrogen-bonding interactions, the ligand, acquired during production in E. coli, remains bound. The reasons for this are discussed.
The essential enzyme 2C-methyl-d-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate (MECP) synthase, found in most eubacteria and the apicomplexan parasites, participates in isoprenoid-precursor biosynthesis and is a validated target for the development of broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs. The structure and mechanism of the enzyme have been elucidated and the recent exciting finding that the enzyme actually binds diphosphate-containing isoprenoids at the interface formed by the three subunits that constitute the active protein suggests the possibility of feedback regulation of MECP synthase. To investigate such a possibility, a form of the enzyme was sought that did not bind these ligands but which would retain the quaternary structure necessary to create the active site. Two amino acids, Arg142 and Glu144, in Escherichia coli MECP synthase were identified as contributing to ligand binding. Glu144 interacts directly with Arg142 and positions the basic residue to form two hydrogen bonds with the terminal phosphate group of the isoprenoid diphosphate ligand. This association occurs at the trimer interface and three of these arginines interact with the ligand phosphate group. A dual mutation was designed (Arg142 to methionine and Glu144 to leucine) to disrupt the electrostatic attractions between the enzyme and the phosphate group to investigate whether an enzyme without isoprenoid diphosphate could be obtained. A low-resolution crystal structure of the mutated MECP synthase Met142/Leu144 revealed that geranyl diphosphate was retained despite the removal of six hydrogen bonds normally formed with the enzyme. This indicates that these two hydrophilic residues on the surface of the enzyme are not major determinants of isoprenoid binding at the trimer interface but rather that hydrophobic interactions between the hydrocarbon tail and the core of the enzyme trimer dominate ligand binding.
PMCID: PMC1952448  PMID: 16511114
MECP synthase; site-directed mutagenesis; isoprenoid biosynthesis

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