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Mol Cell. 2002 Mar;9(3):685-94.

Structural basis and specificity of acyl-homoserine lactone signal production in bacterial quorum sensing.

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Department of Pharmacology, The University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, 4200 E. Ninth Avenue, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


Synthesis and detection of acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs) enables many gram-negative bacteria to engage in quorum sensing, an intercellular signaling mechanism that activates differentiation to virulent and biofilm lifestyles. The AHL synthases catalyze acylation of S-adenosyl-L-methionine by acyl-acyl carrier protein and lactonization of the methionine moiety to give AHLs. The crystal structure of the AHL synthase, EsaI, determined at 1.8 A resolution, reveals a remarkable structural similarity to the N-acetyltransferases and defines a common phosphopantetheine binding fold as the catalytic core. Critical residues responsible for catalysis and acyl chain specificity have been identified from a modeled substrate complex and verified through functional analysis in vivo. A mechanism for the N-acylation of S-adenosyl-L-methionine by 3-oxo-hexanoyl-acyl carrier protein is proposed.

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