Pyruvate kinase (PYK) is a critical allosterically regulated enzyme that links glycolysis, the primary energy metabolism, to cellular metabolism. Lactic acid bacteria rely almost exclusively on glycolysis for their energy production under anaerobic conditions, which reinforces the key role of PYK in their metabolism. These organisms are closely related, but have adapted to a huge variety of native environments. They include food-fermenting organisms, important symbionts in the human gut, and antibiotic-resistant pathogens. In contrast to the rather conserved inhibition of PYK by inorganic phosphate, the activation of PYK shows high variability in the type of activating compound between different lactic acid bacteria. System-wide comparative studies of the metabolism of lactic acid bacteria are required to understand the reasons for the diversity of these closely related microorganisms. These require knowledge of the identities of the enzyme modifiers. Here, we predict potential allosteric activators of PYKs from three lactic acid bacteria which are adapted to different native environments. We used protein structure-based molecular modeling and enzyme kinetic modeling to predict and validate potential activators of PYK. Specifically, we compared the electrostatic potential and the binding of phosphate moieties at the allosteric binding sites, and predicted potential allosteric activators by docking. We then made a kinetic model of Lactococcus lactis PYK to relate the activator predictions to the intracellular sugar-phosphate conditions in lactic acid bacteria. This strategy enabled us to predict fructose 1,6-bisphosphate as the sole activator of the Enterococcus faecalis PYK, and to predict that the PYKs from Streptococcus pyogenes and Lactobacillus plantarum show weaker specificity for their allosteric activators, while still having fructose 1,6-bisphosphate play the main activator role in vivo. These differences in the specificity of allosteric activation may reflect adaptation to different environments with different concentrations of activating compounds. The combined computational approach employed can readily be applied to other enzymes.
Some lactic acid bacteria are antibiotic resistant pathogens causing severe diseases whereas others are healthy probiotics used in the food industry. What makes an LAB a friend or a foe and how do they adapt to survive in such different environments? Here, we addressed this problem by focusing on the enzyme pyruvate kinase, which plays a central role in the metabolism of lactic acid bacteria. This enzyme needs to react quickly to changes in the environment and, therefore, its activity is strictly regulated. In this study, we used computational techniques to predict the cellular substances, called allosteric activators that are responsible for the quick and effective activation of pyruvate kinase. We modeled the three dimensional structures of pyruvate kinases from different bacteria and computed interactions with possible activators. We simulated the dynamic behavior of the pyruvate kinase activity and, considering the cellular concentrations of metabolites in the different organisms, predicted the activators. We found that different lactic acid bacteria have different preferences for activators and that the level of activator specificity can be related to the environment in which the bacteria live.