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1.  Polyglutamine toxicity in yeast induces metabolic alterations and mitochondrial defects 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(1):662.
Protein aggregation and its pathological effects are the major cause of several neurodegenerative diseases. In Huntington’s disease an elongated stretch of polyglutamines within the protein Huntingtin leads to increased aggregation propensity. This induces cellular defects, culminating in neuronal loss, but the connection between aggregation and toxicity remains to be established.
To uncover cellular pathways relevant for intoxication we used genome-wide analyses in a yeast model system and identify fourteen genes that, if deleted, result in higher polyglutamine toxicity. Several of these genes, like UGO1, ATP15 and NFU1 encode mitochondrial proteins, implying that a challenged mitochondrial system may become dysfunctional during polyglutamine intoxication. We further employed microarrays to decipher the transcriptional response upon polyglutamine intoxication, which exposes an upregulation of genes involved in sulfur and iron metabolism and mitochondrial Fe-S cluster formation. Indeed, we find that in vivo iron concentrations are misbalanced and observe a reduction in the activity of the prominent Fe-S cluster containing protein aconitase. Like in other yeast strains with impaired mitochondria, non-fermentative growth is impossible after intoxication with the polyglutamine protein. NMR-based metabolic analyses reveal that mitochondrial metabolism is reduced, leading to accumulation of metabolic intermediates in polyglutamine-intoxicated cells.
These data show that damages to the mitochondrial system occur in polyglutamine intoxicated yeast cells and suggest an intricate connection between polyglutamine-induced toxicity, mitochondrial functionality and iron homeostasis in this model system.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1831-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4558792  PMID: 26335097
Polyglutamine; Iron-sulfur cluster; Mitochondria; Neurodegenerative disease
2.  Insights into the Binding of Pyridines to the Iron–Sulfur Enzyme IspH 
(E)-1-Hydroxy-2-methylbut-2-enyl 4-diphosphate reductase (IspH) is a [Fe4S4] cluster-containing enzyme involved in isoprenoid biosynthesis in many bacteria as well as in malaria parasites and is an important drug target. Several inhibitors including amino and thiol substrate analogues, as well as acetylene and pyridine diphosphates, have been reported. Here, we investigate the mode of binding of four pyridine diphosphates to Escherichia coli IspH by using X-ray crystallography. In three cases, one of the iron atoms in the cluster is absent, but in the structure with (pyridin-3-yl)methyl diphosphate, the most potent pyridine-analogue inhibitor reported previously, the fourth iron of the [Fe4S4] cluster is present and interacts with the pyridine ring of the ligand. Based on the results of quantum chemical calculations together with the crystallographic results we propose a side-on η2 coordination of the nitrogen and the carbon in the 2-position of the pyridine ring to the unique fourth iron in the cluster, which is in the reduced state. The X-ray structure enables excellent predictions using density functional theory of the 14N hyperfine coupling and quadrupole coupling constants reported previously using HYSCORE spectroscopy, as well as providing a further example of the ability of such [Fe4S4]-containing proteins to form organometallic complexes.
PMCID: PMC4063180  PMID: 24813236
3.  Metabolic Response of Escherichia coli upon Treatment with Hypochlorite at Sub-Lethal Concentrations 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0125823.
Hypochlorite is a reactive oxygen species that is worldwide as an antibacterial disinfectant. Hypochlorite exposure is known to cause oxidative damage to DNA and proteins. As a response to these effects, the metabolite profiles of organisms treated with sub-lethal doses of hypochlorite are assumed to be severely modified; however, the nature of these changes is hardly understood. Therefore, using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and gas chromatography-coupled mass spectrometry, we analyzed the time-dependent impact of hypochlorite exposure with a sub-lethal concentration (50 µM) on the metabolite profile of the Escherichia coli strain MG1655. Principle component analysis clearly distinguished between the metabolite profiles of bacteria treated for 0, 5,10, 20, 40, or 60 min. Major changes in the relative amounts of fatty acids, acetic acid, and formic acid occurred within the first 5 min. Comparative gas chromatography-coupled mass spectrometry analyses revealed that the amounts of free methionine and alanine were significantly decreased in the treated cells, demonstrating their susceptibility to hypochlorite exposure. The concentrations of succinate, urea, orotic acid, 2-aminobutyric acid, and 2-hydroxybutyric acid were also severely affected, indicating general changes in the metabolic network by hypochlorite. However, most metabolite levels relaxed to the reference values of untreated cells after 40–60 min, reflecting the capability of E. coli to rapidly adapt to environmental stress factors such as the presence of sub-lethal oxidant levels.
PMCID: PMC4416902  PMID: 25932918
4.  Host-adapted metabolism and its regulation in bacterial pathogens 
PMCID: PMC4376003  PMID: 25870851
bacterial pathogens; enteric pathogens; metabolism; host-pathogen adaption; isotopolog profiling
5.  ‘Isotopo’ a database application for facile analysis and management of mass isotopomer data 
The composition of stable-isotope labelled isotopologues/isotopomers in metabolic products can be measured by mass spectrometry and supports the analysis of pathways and fluxes. As a prerequisite, the original mass spectra have to be processed, managed and stored to rapidly calculate, analyse and compare isotopomer enrichments to study, for instance, bacterial metabolism in infection. For such applications, we provide here the database application ‘Isotopo’. This software package includes (i) a database to store and process isotopomer data, (ii) a parser to upload and translate different data formats for such data and (iii) an improved application to process and convert signal intensities from mass spectra of 13C-labelled metabolites such as tertbutyldimethylsilyl-derivatives of amino acids. Relative mass intensities and isotopomer distributions are calculated applying a partial least square method with iterative refinement for high precision data. The data output includes formats such as graphs for overall enrichments in amino acids. The package is user-friendly for easy and robust data management of multiple experiments.
Availability: The ‘Isotopo’ software is available at the following web link (section Download): The package contains three additional files: software executable setup (installer), one data set file (discussed in this article) and one excel file (which can be used to convert data from excel to ‘.iso’ format). The ‘Isotopo’ software is compatible only with the Microsoft Windows operating system.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4158277  PMID: 25204646
6.  Structures of Fluoro, Amino and Thiol Inhibitors Bound to the [Fe4S4] Protein IspH** 
PMCID: PMC3734547  PMID: 23307751
Bioinorganic chemistry; Metalloenzymes; Terpenoides; IspH; LytB
7.  The arginine-ornithine antiporter ArcD contributes to biological fitness of Streptococcus suis 
The arginine-ornithine antiporter (ArcD) is part of the Arginine Deiminase System (ADS), a catabolic, energy-providing pathway found in a variety of different bacterial species, including the porcine zoonotic pathogen Streptococcus suis. The ADS has recently been shown to play a role in the pathogenicity of S. suis, in particular in its survival in host cells. The contribution of arginine and arginine transport mediated by ArcD, however, has yet to be clarified. In the present study, we showed by experiments using [U-13C6]arginine as a tracer molecule that S. suis is auxotrophic for arginine and that bacterial growth depends on the uptake of extracellular arginine. To further study the role of ArcD in arginine metabolism, we generated an arcD-specific mutant strain and characterized its growth compared to the wild-type (WT) strain, a virulent serotype 2 strain. The mutant strain showed a markedly reduced growth in chemically defined media supplemented with arginine when compared to the WT strain, suggesting that ArcD promotes arginine uptake. To further evaluate the in vivo relevance of ArcD, we studied the intracellular bacterial survival of the arcD mutant strain in an epithelial cell culture infection model. The mutant strain was substantially attenuated, and its reduced intracellular survival rate correlated with a lower ability to neutralize the acidified environment. Based on these results, we propose that ArcD, by its function as an arginine-ornithine antiporter, is important for supplying arginine as substrate of the ADS and, thereby, contributes to biological fitness and virulence of S. suis in the host.
PMCID: PMC4129364  PMID: 25161959
Streptococcus suis; zoonosis; arginine-ornithine antiporter; biological fitness; arginine deiminase system
8.  Staphylococcus aureus small colony variants show common metabolic features in central metabolism irrespective of the underlying auxotrophism 
In addition to the classical phenotype, Staphylococcus aureus may exhibit the small colony-variant (SCV) phenotype, which has been associated with chronic, persistent and/or relapsing infections. SCVs are characterized by common phenotypic features such as slow growth, altered susceptibility to antibiotic agents and pathogenic traits based on increased internalization and intracellular persistence. They show frequently auxotrophies mainly based on two different mechanisms: (i) deficiencies in electron transport as shown for menadione- and/or hemin-auxotrophs and (ii) thymidylate biosynthetic-defective SCVs. To get a comprehensive overview of the metabolic differences between both phenotypes, we compared sets of clinically derived menadione-, hemin- and thymidine-auxotrophic SCVs and stable site directed mutants exhibiting the SCV phenotype with their corresponding isogenic parental strains displaying the normal phenotype. Isotopologue profiling and transcriptional analysis of central genes involved in carbon metabolism, revealed large differences between both phenotypes. Labeling experiments with [U-13C6]glucose showed reduced 13C incorporation into aspartate and glutamate from all SCVs irrespective of the underlying auxotrophism. More specifically, these SCVs showed decreased fractions of 13C2-aspartate and glutamate; 13C3-glutamate was not detected at all in the SCVs. In comparison to the patterns in the corresponding experiment with the classical S. aureus phenotype, this indicated a reduced carbon flux via the citric acid cycle in all SCV phenotypes. Indeed, the aconitase-encoding gene (acnA) was found down-regulated in all SCV phenotypes under study. In conclusion, all SCV phenotypes including clinical isolates and site-directed mutants displaying the SCV phenotype were characterized by down-regulation of citric acid cycle activity. The common metabolic features in central carbon metabolism found in all SCVs may explain similar characteristics of the S. aureus SCVs irrespective of their auxotrophism as well as the specific genetic and/or regulatory backgrounds.
PMCID: PMC4204524  PMID: 25374845
S. aureus; SCV; metabolism; TCA
9.  Analysis of carbon substrates used by Listeria monocytogenes during growth in J774A.1 macrophages suggests a bipartite intracellular metabolism 
Intracellular bacterial pathogens (IBPs) are dependent on various nutrients provided by the host cells. Different strategies may therefore be necessary to adapt the intracellular metabolism of IBPs to the host cells. The specific carbon sources, the catabolic pathways participating in their degradation, and the biosynthetic performances of IBPs are still poorly understood. In this report, we have exploited the technique of 13C-isotopologue profiling to further study the carbon metabolism of Listeria monocytogenes by using the EGDe wild-type strain and mutants (defective in the uptake and/or catabolism of various carbon compounds) replicating in J774A.1 macrophages. For this goal, the infected macrophages were cultivated in the presence of [1,2-13C2]glucose, [U-13C3]glycerol, [U-13C3]pyruvate, [U-13C3]lactate, or a mix of [U-13C]amino acids. GC/MS-based isotopologue profiling showed efficient utilization of amino acids, glucose 6-phosphate, glycerol, and (at a low extent) also of lactate but not of pyruvate by the IBPs. Most amino acids imported from the host cells were directly used for bacterial protein biosynthesis and hardly catabolized. However, Asp was de novo synthesized by the IBPs and not imported from the host cell. As expected, glycerol was catabolized via the ATP-generating lower part of the glycolytic pathway, but apparently not used for gluconeogenesis. The intermediates generated from glucose 6-phosphate in the upper part of the glycolytic pathway and the pentose phosphate shunt likely serve primarily for anabolic purposes (probably for the biosynthesis of cell wall components and nucleotides). This bipartite bacterial metabolism which involves at least two major carbon substrates—glycerol mainly for energy supply and glucose 6-phosphate mainly for indispensible anabolic performances—may put less nutritional stress on the infected host cells, thereby extending the lifespan of the host cells to the benefit of the IBPs.
PMCID: PMC4217532  PMID: 25405102
bacterial metabolism; bacterial pathogensis; intracellular bacteria; isotopic tracers; isotopologue profiling; Listeria monocytogenes
10.  Growth Media Simulating Ileal and Colonic Environments Affect the Intracellular Proteome and Carbon Fluxes of Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 Strain EDL933 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(12):3703-3715.
In this study, the intracellular proteome of Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain EDL933 was analyzed by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) spectrometry after growth in simulated ileal environment media (SIEM) and simulated colonic environment media (SCEM) under aerobic and microaerobic conditions. Differentially expressed intracellular proteins were identified and allocated to functional protein groups. Moreover, metabolic fluxes were analyzed by isotopologue profiling with [U-13C6]glucose as a tracer. The results of this study show that EDL933 responds with differential expression of a complex network of proteins and metabolic pathways, reflecting the high metabolic adaptability of the strain. Growth in SIEM and SCEM is obviously facilitated by the upregulation of nucleotide biosynthesis pathway proteins and could be impaired by exposition to 50 µM 6-mercaptopurine under aerobic conditions. Notably, various stress and virulence factors, including Shiga toxin, were expressed without having contact with a human host.
PMCID: PMC3675940  PMID: 23563955
11.  Discovery of acetylene hydratase activity of the iron–sulphur protein IspH 
Nature communications  2012;3:1042.
The final step of the methylerythritol phosphate isoprenoid biosynthesis pathway is catalysed by the iron–sulphur enzyme IspH, producing the universal precursors of terpenes: isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate. Here we report an unforeseen reaction discovered during the investigation of the interaction of IspH with acetylene inhibitors by X-ray crystallography, Mößbauer, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. In addition to its role as a 2H+/2e− reductase, IspH can hydrate acetylenes to aldehydes and ketones via anti-Markovnikov/Markovnikov addition. The reactions only occur with the oxidised protein and proceed via η1-O-enolate intermediates. One of these is characterized crystallographically and contains a C4 ligand oxygen bound to the unique, fourth iron in the 4Fe-4S cluster: this intermediate subsequently hydrolyzes to produce an aldehyde product. This unexpected side to IspH reactivity is of interest in the context of the mechanism of action of other acetylene hydratases, as well as in the design of antiinfectives targeting IspH.
PMCID: PMC3745992  PMID: 22948824
12.  Software LS-MIDA for efficient mass isotopomer distribution analysis in metabolic modelling 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14:218.
The knowledge of metabolic pathways and fluxes is important to understand the adaptation of organisms to their biotic and abiotic environment. The specific distribution of stable isotope labelled precursors into metabolic products can be taken as fingerprints of the metabolic events and dynamics through the metabolic networks. An open-source software is required that easily and rapidly calculates from mass spectra of labelled metabolites, derivatives and their fragments global isotope excess and isotopomer distribution.
The open-source software “Least Square Mass Isotopomer Analyzer” (LS-MIDA) is presented that processes experimental mass spectrometry (MS) data on the basis of metabolite information such as the number of atoms in the compound, mass to charge ratio (m/e or m/z) values of the compounds and fragments under study, and the experimental relative MS intensities reflecting the enrichments of isotopomers in 13C- or 15 N-labelled compounds, in comparison to the natural abundances in the unlabelled molecules. The software uses Brauman’s least square method of linear regression. As a result, global isotope enrichments of the metabolite or fragment under study and the molar abundances of each isotopomer are obtained and displayed.
The new software provides an open-source platform that easily and rapidly converts experimental MS patterns of labelled metabolites into isotopomer enrichments that are the basis for subsequent observation-driven analysis of pathways and fluxes, as well as for model-driven metabolic flux calculations.
PMCID: PMC3720290  PMID: 23837681
13.  Chloroplast-localized 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase is critical for maize endosperm starch accumulation 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(8):2231-2242.
Plants have duplicate versions of the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway (oxPPP) enzymes with a subset localized to the chloroplast. The chloroplast oxPPP provides NADPH and pentose sugars for multiple metabolic pathways. This study identified two loss-of-function alleles of the Zea mays (maize) chloroplast-localized oxPPP enzyme 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase (6PGDH). These mutations caused a rough endosperm seed phenotype with reduced embryo oil and endosperm starch. Genetic translocation experiments showed that pgd3 has separate, essential roles in both endosperm and embryo development. Endosperm metabolite profiling experiments indicated that pgd3 shifts redox-related metabolites and increases reducing sugars similar to starch-biosynthetis mutants. Heavy isotope-labelling experiments indicates that carbon flux into starch is altered in pgd3 mutants. Labelling experiments with a loss of cytosolic 6PGDH did not affect flux into starch. These results support the known role for plastid-localized oxPPP in oil synthesis and argue that amyloplast-localized oxPPP reactions are integral to endosperm starch accumulation in maize kernels.
PMCID: PMC3654415  PMID: 23530131
Defective kernel; endosperm; maize; pentose phosphate pathway; PGD3; starch.
14.  Metabolic host responses to infection by intracellular bacterial pathogens 
The interaction of bacterial pathogens with mammalian hosts leads to a variety of physiological responses of the interacting partners aimed at an adaptation to the new situation. These responses include multiple metabolic changes in the affected host cells which are most obvious when the pathogen replicates within host cells as in case of intracellular bacterial pathogens. While the pathogen tries to deprive nutrients from the host cell, the host cell in return takes various metabolic countermeasures against the nutrient theft. During this conflicting interaction, the pathogen triggers metabolic host cell responses by means of common cell envelope components and specific virulence-associated factors. These host reactions generally promote replication of the pathogen. There is growing evidence that pathogen-specific factors may interfere in different ways with the complex regulatory network that controls the carbon and nitrogen metabolism of mammalian cells. The host cell defense answers include general metabolic reactions, like the generation of oxygen- and/or nitrogen-reactive species, and more specific measures aimed to prevent access to essential nutrients for the respective pathogen. Accurate results on metabolic host cell responses are often hampered by the use of cancer cell lines that already exhibit various de-regulated reactions in the primary carbon metabolism. Hence, there is an urgent need for cellular models that more closely reflect the in vivo infection conditions. The exact knowledge of the metabolic host cell responses may provide new interesting concepts for antibacterial therapies.
PMCID: PMC3705551  PMID: 23847769
metabolism of mammalian cells; regulation of metabolic pathways; cancer cells; intracellular bacteria; common (“core”) and specific metabolic host responses; virulence-associated factors; antibacterial therapy
15.  Metabolic Responses of Primary and Transformed Cells to Intracellular Listeria monocytogenes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52378.
The metabolic response of host cells, in particular of primary mammalian cells, to bacterial infections is poorly understood. Here, we compare the carbon metabolism of primary mouse macrophages and of established J774A.1 cells upon Listeria monocytogenes infection using 13C-labelled glucose or glutamine as carbon tracers. The 13C-profiles of protein-derived amino acids from labelled host cells and intracellular L. monocytogenes identified active metabolic pathways in the different cell types. In the primary cells, infection with live L. monocytogenes increased glycolytic activity and enhanced flux of pyruvate into the TCA cycle via pyruvate dehydrogenase and pyruvate carboxylase, while in J774A.1 cells the already high glycolytic and glutaminolytic activities hardly changed upon infection. The carbon metabolism of intracellular L. monocytogenes was similar in both host cells. Taken together, the data suggest that efficient listerial replication in the cytosol of the host cells mainly depends on the glycolytic activity of the hosts.
PMCID: PMC3528701  PMID: 23285016
16.  Toward a Systemic Understanding of Listeria monocytogenes Metabolism during Infection 
Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne human pathogen that can cause invasive infection in susceptible animals and humans. For proliferation within hosts, this facultative intracellular pathogen uses a reservoir of specific metabolic pathways, transporter, and enzymatic functions whose expression requires the coordinated activity of a complex regulatory network. The highly adapted metabolism of L. monocytogenes strongly depends on the nutrient composition of various milieus encountered during infection. Transcriptomic and proteomic studies revealed the spatial–temporal dynamic of gene expression of this pathogen during replication within cultured cells or in vivo. Metabolic clues are the utilization of unusual C2- and C3-bodies, the metabolism of pyruvate, thiamine availability, the uptake of peptides, the acquisition or biosynthesis of certain amino acids, and the degradation of glucose-phosphate via the pentose phosphate pathway. These examples illustrate the interference of in vivo conditions with energy, carbon, and nitrogen metabolism, thus affecting listerial growth. The exploitation, analysis, and modeling of the available data sets served as a first attempt to a systemic understanding of listerial metabolism during infection. L. monocytogenes might serve as a model organism for systems biology of a Gram-positive, facultative intracellular bacterium.
PMCID: PMC3271275  PMID: 22347216
Listeria monocytogenes; infection; metabolism; systems biology; modeling; intracellular
17.  Labeling and Enzyme Studies of the Central Carbon Metabolism in Metallosphaera sedula ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;193(5):1191-1200.
Metallosphaera sedula (Sulfolobales, Crenarchaeota) uses the 3-hydroxypropionate/4-hydroxybutyrate cycle for autotrophic carbon fixation. In this pathway, acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) and succinyl-CoA are the only intermediates that can be considered common to the central carbon metabolism. We addressed the question of which intermediate of the cycle most biosynthetic routes branch off. We labeled autotrophically growing cells by using 4-hydroxy[1-14C]butyrate and [1,4-13C1]succinate, respectively, as precursors for biosynthesis. The labeling patterns of protein-derived amino acids verified the operation of the proposed carbon fixation cycle, in which 4-hydroxybutyrate is converted to two molecules of acetyl-CoA. The results also showed that major biosynthetic flux does not occur via acetyl-CoA, except for the formation of building blocks that are directly derived from acetyl-CoA. Notably, acetyl-CoA is not assimilated via reductive carboxylation to pyruvate. Rather, our data suggest that the majority of anabolic precursors are derived from succinyl-CoA, which is removed from the cycle via oxidation to malate and oxaloacetate. These C4 intermediates yield pyruvate and phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP). Enzyme activities that are required for forming intermediates from succinyl-CoA were detected, including enzymes catalyzing gluconeogenesis from PEP. This study completes the picture of the central carbon metabolism in autotrophic Sulfolobales by connecting the autotrophic carbon fixation cycle to the formation of central carbon precursor metabolites.
PMCID: PMC3067578  PMID: 21169486
18.  Mechanistic insights on riboflavin synthase inspired by selective binding of the 6,7-dimethyl-8-ribityllumazine exomethylene anion 
Riboflavin synthase catalyzes the transfer of a 4-carbon fragment between two molecules of the substrate, 6,7-dimethyl-8-ribityllumazine, resulting in the formation of riboflavin and 5-amino-6-ribitylamino-2,4(1H,3H)-pyrimidinedione. Earlier, a pentacyclic adduct formed from two substrate molecules was shown to be a catalytically competent intermediate, but the mechanism of its formation is still poorly understood. The present study shows that the recombinant N-terminal domain of riboflavin synthase from Escherichia coli interacts specifically with the exomethylene-type anion of 6,7-dimethyl-8-ribityllumazine but not with any of the tricyclic adduct-type anions that dominate the complex anion equilibrium in aqueous solution. Whereas these findings can be implemented into previously published mechanistic hypotheses, we also present a novel, hypothetical reaction sequence that starts with the transfer of a hydride ion from the 6,7-dimethyl-8-ribityllumazine exomethylene anion to an electroneutral 6,7-dimethyl-8-ribityllumazine molecule. The pair of dehydrolumazine and dihydrolumazine molecules resulting from this hydride transfer is proposed to undergo a 4+2 cycloaddition affording the experimentally documented pentacyclic intermediate. In contrast to earlier mechanistic concepts requiring the participation of a nucleophilic agent, which is not supported by structural and mutagenesis data, the novel concept has no such requirement. Moreover, it requires fewer reaction steps and is consistent with all experimental data.
PMCID: PMC2832097  PMID: 20143812
Riboflavin synthase; biosynthesis of riboflavin; reaction mechanism; hydride transfer; cycloaddition
19.  Pyruvate Carboxylase Plays a Crucial Role in Carbon Metabolism of Extra- and Intracellularly Replicating Listeria monocytogenes▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(7):1774-1784.
The human pathogen L. monocytogenes is a facultatively intracellular bacterium that survives and replicates in the cytosol of many mammalian cells. The listerial metabolism, especially under intracellular conditions, is still poorly understood. Recent studies analyzed the carbon metabolism of L. monocytogenes by the 13C isotopologue perturbation method in a defined minimal medium containing [U-13C6]glucose. It was shown that these bacteria produce oxaloacetate mainly by carboxylation of pyruvate due to an incomplete tricarboxylic acid cycle. Here, we report that a pycA insertion mutant defective in pyruvate carboxylase (PYC) still grows, albeit at a reduced rate, in brain heart infusion (BHI) medium but is unable to multiply in a defined minimal medium with glucose or glycerol as a carbon source. Aspartate and glutamate of the pycA mutant, in contrast to the wild-type strain, remain unlabeled when [U-13C6]glucose is added to BHI, indicating that the PYC-catalyzed carboxylation of pyruvate is the predominant reaction leading to oxaloacetate in L. monocytogenes. The pycA mutant is also unable to replicate in mammalian cells and exhibits high virulence attenuation in the mouse sepsis model.
PMCID: PMC2838035  PMID: 20097852
20.  Carbon Metabolism of Enterobacterial Human Pathogens Growing in Epithelial Colorectal Adenocarcinoma (Caco-2) Cells 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10586.
Analysis of the genome sequences of the major human bacterial pathogens has provided a large amount of information concerning their metabolic potential. However, our knowledge of the actual metabolic pathways and metabolite fluxes occurring in these pathogens under infection conditions is still limited. In this study, we analysed the intracellular carbon metabolism of enteroinvasive Escherichia coli (EIEC HN280 and EIEC 4608-58) and Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium (Stm 14028) replicating in epithelial colorectal adenocarcinoma cells (Caco-2). To this aim, we supplied [U-13C6]glucose to Caco-2 cells infected with the bacterial strains or mutants thereof impaired in the uptake of glucose, mannose and/or glucose 6-phosphate. The 13C-isotopologue patterns of protein-derived amino acids from the bacteria and the host cells were then determined by mass spectrometry. The data showed that EIEC HN280 growing in the cytosol of the host cells, as well as Stm 14028 replicating in the Salmonella-containing vacuole (SCV) utilised glucose, but not glucose 6-phosphate, other phosphorylated carbohydrates, gluconate or fatty acids as major carbon substrates. EIEC 4608-58 used C3-compound(s) in addition to glucose as carbon source. The labelling patterns reflected strain-dependent carbon flux via glycolysis and/or the Entner-Doudoroff pathway, the pentose phosphate pathway, the TCA cycle and anapleurotic reactions between PEP and oxaloacetate. Mutants of all three strains impaired in the uptake of glucose switched to C3-substrate(s) accompanied by an increased uptake of amino acids (and possibly also other anabolic monomers) from the host cell. Surprisingly, the metabolism of the host cells, as judged by the efficiency of 13C-incorporation into host cell amino acids, was not significantly affected by the infection with either of these intracellular pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2868055  PMID: 20485672
21.  Characterization of rubber particles and rubber chain elongation in Taraxacum koksaghyz 
BMC Biochemistry  2010;11:11.
Natural rubber is a biopolymer with exceptional qualities that cannot be completely replaced using synthetic alternatives. Although several key enzymes in the rubber biosynthetic pathway have been isolated, mainly from plants such as Hevea brasiliensis, Ficus spec. and the desert shrub Parthenium argentatum, there have been no in planta functional studies, e.g. by RNA interference, due to the absence of efficient and reproducible protocols for genetic engineering. In contrast, the Russian dandelion Taraxacum koksaghyz, which has long been considered as a potential alternative source of low-cost natural rubber, has a rapid life cycle and can be genetically transformed using a simple and reliable procedure. However, there is very little molecular data available for either the rubber polymer itself or its biosynthesis in T. koksaghyz.
We established a method for the purification of rubber particles - the active sites of rubber biosynthesis - from T. koksaghyz latex. Photon correlation spectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy revealed an average particle size of 320 nm, and 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy confirmed that isolated rubber particles contain poly(cis-1,4-isoprene) with a purity >95%. Size exclusion chromatography indicated that the weight average molecular mass (w) of T. koksaghyz natural rubber is 4,000-5,000 kDa. Rubber particles showed rubber transferase activity of 0.2 pmol min-1 mg-1. Ex vivo rubber biosynthesis experiments resulted in a skewed unimodal distribution of [1-14C]isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP) incorporation at a w of 2,500 kDa. Characterization of recently isolated cis-prenyltransferases (CPTs) from T. koksaghyz revealed that these enzymes are associated with rubber particles and are able to produce long-chain polyprenols in yeast.
T. koksaghyz rubber particles are similar to those described for H. brasiliensis. They contain very pure, high molecular mass poly(cis-1,4-isoprene) and the chain elongation process can be studied ex vivo. Because of their localization on rubber particles and their activity in yeast, we propose that the recently described T. koksaghyz CPTs are the major rubber chain elongating enzymes in this species. T. koksaghyz is amenable to genetic analysis and modification, and therefore could be used as a model species for the investigation and comparison of rubber biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC2836272  PMID: 20170509
22.  How the Intestinal Peptide Transporter PEPT-1 Contributes to an Obesity Phenotype in Caenorhabditits elegans 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6279.
Amino acid absorption in the form of di- and tripeptides is mediated by the intestinal proton-coupled peptide transporter PEPT-1 (formally OPT-2) in Caenorhabditits elegans. Transporter-deficient animals (pept-1(lg601)) show impaired growth, slowed postembryonal development and major changes in amino acid status.
Principal Findings
Here we demonstrate that abolished intestinal peptide transport also leads to major metabolic alterations that culminate in a two fold increase in total body fat content. Feeding of C. elegans with [U-13C]-labelled E. coli revealed a decreased de novo synthesis of long-chain fatty acids in pept-1(lg601) and reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. mRNA profiling revealed increased transcript levels of enzymes/transporters needed for peroxisomal β-oxidation and decreased levels for those required for fatty acid synthesis, elongation and desaturation. As a prime and most fundamental process that may account for the increased fat content in pept-1(lg601) we identified a highly accelerated absorption of free fatty acids from the bacterial food in the intestine.
The influx of free fatty acids into intestinal epithelial cells is strongly dependent on alterations in intracellular pH which is regulated by the interplay of PEPT-1 and the sodium-proton exchanger NHX-2. We here provide evidence for a central mechanism by which the PEPT-1/NHX-2 system strongly influences the in vivo fat content of C. elegans. Loss of PEPT-1 decreases intestinal proton influx leading to a higher uptake of free fatty acids with fat accumulation whereas loss of NHX-2 causes intracellular acidification by the PEPT-1 mediated proton/dipeptide symport with an almost abolished uptake of fatty acids and a lean phenotype.
PMCID: PMC2708923  PMID: 19621081
23.  Characterization of Aquifex aeolicus 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase – ligand recognition in a template for antimicrobial drug discovery 
The Febs Journal  2008;275(11):2779-2794.
4-Diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase (IspE) catalyses the ATP-dependent conversion of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol (CDPME) to 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol 2-phosphate with the release of ADP. This reaction occurs in the non-mevalonate pathway of isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis and because it is essential in important microbial pathogens and absent from mammals it represents a potential target for anti-infective drugs. We set out to characterize the biochemical properties, determinants of molecular recognition and reactivity of IspE and report the cloning and purification of recombinant Aquifex aeolicus IspE (AaIspE), kinetic data, metal ion, temperature and pH dependence, crystallization and structure determination of the enzyme in complex with CDP, CDPME and ADP. In addition, 4-fluoro-3,5-dihydroxy-4-methylpent-1-enylphosphonic acid (compound 1) was designed to mimic a fragment of the substrate, a synthetic route to 1 was elucidated and the complex structure determined. Surprisingly, this ligand occupies the binding site for the ATP α-phosphate not the binding site for the methyl-d-erythritol moiety of CDPME. Gel filtration and analytical ultracentrifugation indicate that AaIspE is a monomer in solution. The enzyme displays the characteristic α/β galacto-homoserine-mevalonate-phosphomevalonate kinase fold, with the catalytic centre positioned in a deep cleft between the ATP- and CDPME-binding domains. Comparisons indicate a high degree of sequence conservation on the IspE active site across bacterial species, similarities in structure, specificity of substrate recognition and mechanism. The biochemical characterization, attainment of well-ordered and reproducible crystals and the models resulting from the analyses provide reagents and templates to support the structure-based design of broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents.
PMCID: PMC2655357  PMID: 18422643
enzyme–ligand complex; GHMP kinase; isoprenoid biosynthesis; molecular recognition; non-mevalonate pathway
24.  Nanoarchaeum equitans and Ignicoccus hospitalis: New Insights into a Unique, Intimate Association of Two Archaea▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(5):1743-1750.
Nanoarchaeum equitans and Ignicoccus hospitalis represent a unique, intimate association of two archaea. Both form a stable coculture which is mandatory for N. equitans but not for the host I. hospitalis. Here, we investigated interactions and mutual influence between these microorganisms. Fermentation studies revealed that during exponential growth only about 25% of I. hospitalis cells are occupied by N. equitans cells (one to three cells). The latter strongly proliferate in the stationary phase of I. hospitalis, until 80 to 90% of the I. hospitalis cells carry around 10 N. equitans cells. Furthermore, the expulsion of H2S, the major metabolic end product of I. hospitalis, by strong gas stripping yields huge amounts of free N. equitans cells. N. equitans had no influence on the doubling times, final cell concentrations, and growth temperature, pH, or salt concentration ranges or optima of I. hospitalis. However, isolation studies using optical tweezers revealed that infection with N. equitans inhibited the proliferation of individual I. hospitalis cells. This inhibition might be caused by deprivation of the host of cell components like amino acids, as demonstrated by 13C-labeling studies. The strong dependence of N. equitans on I. hospitalis was affirmed by live-dead staining and electron microscopic analyses, which indicated a tight physiological and structural connection between the two microorganisms. No alternative hosts, including other Ignicoccus species, were accepted by N. equitans. In summary, the data show a highly specialized association of N. equitans and I. hospitalis which so far cannot be assigned to a classical symbiosis, commensalism, or parasitism.
PMCID: PMC2258681  PMID: 18165302
25.  Insights into the Autotrophic CO2 Fixation Pathway of the Archaeon Ignicoccus hospitalis: Comprehensive Analysis of the Central Carbon Metabolism▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(11):4108-4119.
Ignicoccus hospitalis is an autotrophic hyperthermophilic archaeon that serves as a host for another parasitic/symbiotic archaeon, Nanoarchaeum equitans. In this study, the biosynthetic pathways of I. hospitalis were investigated by in vitro enzymatic analyses, in vivo 13C-labeling experiments, and genomic analyses. Our results suggest the operation of a so far unknown pathway of autotrophic CO2 fixation that starts from acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA). The cyclic regeneration of acetyl-CoA, the primary CO2 acceptor molecule, has not been clarified yet. In essence, acetyl-CoA is converted into pyruvate via reductive carboxylation by pyruvate-ferredoxin oxidoreductase. Pyruvate-water dikinase converts pyruvate into phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP), which is carboxylated to oxaloacetate by PEP carboxylase. An incomplete citric acid cycle is operating: citrate is synthesized from oxaloacetate and acetyl-CoA by a (re)-specific citrate synthase, whereas a 2-oxoglutarate-oxidizing enzyme is lacking. Further investigations revealed that several special biosynthetic pathways that have recently been described for various archaea are operating. Isoleucine is synthesized via the uncommon citramalate pathway and lysine via the α-aminoadipate pathway. Gluconeogenesis is achieved via a reverse Embden-Meyerhof pathway using a novel type of fructose 1,6-bisphosphate aldolase. Pentosephosphates are formed from hexosephosphates via the suggested ribulose-monophosphate pathway, whereby formaldehyde is released from C-1 of hexose. The organism may not contain any sugar-metabolizing pathway. This comprehensive analysis of the central carbon metabolism of I. hospitalis revealed further evidence for the unexpected and unexplored diversity of metabolic pathways within the (hyperthermophilic) archaea.
PMCID: PMC1913412  PMID: 17400748

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