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J Bacteriol. 2010 Dec;192(24):6390-400. doi: 10.1128/JB.00995-10. Epub 2010 Oct 15.

Instability of ackA (acetate kinase) mutations and their effects on acetyl phosphate and ATP amounts in Streptococcus pneumoniae D39.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA.


Acetyl phosphate (AcP) is a small-molecule metabolite that can act as a phosphoryl group donor for response regulators of two-component systems (TCSs). The serious human respiratory pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) synthesizes AcP by the conventional pathway involving phosphotransacetylase and acetate kinase, encoded by pta and ackA, respectively. In addition, pneumococcus synthesizes copious amounts of AcP and hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) by pyruvate oxidase, which is encoded by spxB. To assess possible roles of AcP in pneumococcal TCS regulation and metabolism, we constructed strains with combinations of spxB, pta, and ackA mutations and determined their effects on ATP, AcP, and H(2)O(2) production. Unexpectedly, ΔackA mutants were unstable and readily accumulated primary suppressor mutations in spxB or its positive regulator, spxR, thereby reducing H(2)O(2) and AcP levels, and secondary capsule mutations in cps2E or cps2C. ΔackA ΔspxB mutants contained half the cellular amount of ATP as a ΔspxB or spxB(+) strain. Acetate addition and anaerobic growth experiments suggested decreased ATP, rather than increased AcP, as a reason that ΔackA mutants accumulated spxB or spxR suppressors, although experimental manipulation of the AcP amount was limited. This finding and other considerations suggest that coping with endogenously produced H(2)O(2) may require energy. Starting with a ΔspxB mutant, we constructed Δpta, ΔackA, and Δpta ΔackA mutants. Epistasis and microarray experiment results were consistent with a role for the SpxB-Pta-AckA pathway in expression of the regulons controlled by the WalRK(Spn), CiaRH(Spn), and LiaSR(Spn) TCSs involved in sensing cell wall status. However, AcP likely does not play a physiological role in TCS sensing in S. pneumoniae.

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