A genome rearrangement has orphaned the Escherichia coli K-12 AcpT phosphopantetheinyl transferase from its cognate Escherichia coli O157:H7 substrates

Nicholas R. De Lay, John E. Cronan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phosphopantetheinyl transferases (PPTases) are enzymes that catalyse the transfer of a 4′-phosphopantetheine moiety from CoA to a conserved serine residue of a carrier protein. These carrier proteins use the 4′-phosphopantetheine thiol to shuttle intermediates between the active sites of biosynthetic enzymes involved in fatty acid, non-ribosomal peptide and polyketide synthesis. Three PPTases have been previously been identified in Escherichia coli K-12 and other E. coli strains by homology searches and are encoded by the genes acpS, entD and acpT. Both AcpS and EntD have been well studied whereas the function of AcpT has been an enigma because no carrier protein substrate could be found. We report genetic and biochemical evidence that AcpT modifies two carrier proteins encoded in O-island 138, a cluster of fatty acid biosynthesis-like genes located adjacent to acpT in the genome of the pathogenic E. coli strain O157:H7 (E. coli K-12 and several other sequenced E. coli and Shigella strains lack O-island 138). The two carrier proteins of O-island 138 of strain O157:H7 are not modified (or only very poorly modified) by AcpS, the PPTase responsible for 4′-phosphopantetheine attachment to the acyl carrier protein (AcpP) of fatty acid synthesis. We demonstrate that AcpT cannot functionally replace AcpS in E. coli K-12 either in its native chromosomal location or upon insertion of acpT into the acpS chromosomal location. However, in the absence of AcpS activity AcpT does allow very slow growth thus providing a rationale for its retention in the absence of its cognate substrates. These results together with phylogenetic analyses and comparisons of the E. coli and Shigella strains of known genome sequence strongly argue that AcpT has been orphaned from its cognate substrates by a deletion event that occurred in a common ancestor of these organisms. This seems one of the few cases where a chromosomal rearrangement has been functionally demonstrated to be a deletion event rather than an insertion event in the reference organism. We also show that the previously reported suppression of an acpS mutation by the deletion of Lon protease is an artifact of the increased capsular polysaccharide production of lon strains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-242
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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