Genetic basis for metabolism of methylated sulfur compounds in Methanosarcina species

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Methanosarcina acetivorans uses a variety of methylated sulfur compounds as carbon and energy sources. Previous studies implicated the mtsD, mtsF, and mtsH genes in catabolism of dimethylsulfide, but the genes required for use of other methylsulfides have yet to be established. Here, we show that a four-gene locus, designated mtpCAP-msrH, is specifically required for growth on methylmercaptopropionate (MMPA). The mtpC, mtpA, and mtpP genes encode a putative corrinoid protein, a coenzymeM (CoM) methyltransferase, and a major facilitator superfamily (MFS) transporter, respectively, while msrH encodes a putative transcriptional regulator. Mutants lacking mtpC or mtpA display a severe growth defect in MMPA medium but are unimpaired during growth on other substrates. The mtpCAP genes comprise a transcriptional unit that is highly and specifically upregulated during growth on MMPA, whereas msrH is monocistronic and constitutively expressed. Mutants lacking msrH fail to transcribe mtpCAP and grow poorly in MMPA medium, consistent with the assignment of its product as a transcriptional activator. The mtpCAP-msrH locus is conserved in numerous marine methanogens, including eight Methanosarcina species that we showed are capable of growth on MMPA. Mutants lacking the mtsD, mtsF, and mtsH genes display a 30% reduction in growth yield when grown on MMPA, suggesting that these genes play an auxiliary role in MMPA catabolism. A quadruple ΔmtpCAP ΔmtsD ΔmtsF ΔmtsH mutant strain was incapable of growth on MMPA. Reanalysis of mtsD, mtsF, and mtsH mutants suggests that the preferred substrate for MtsD is dimethylsulfide, while the preferred substrate for MtsF is methanethiol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1515-1524
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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