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Mol Microbiol. 2012 Feb;83(4):840-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.07968.x. Epub 2012 Jan 29.

The Burkholderia cenocepacia BDSF quorum sensing fatty acid is synthesized by a bifunctional crotonase homologue having both dehydratase and thioesterase activities.

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Departments of Microbiology Biochemistry, B103 Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory, University of Illinois, 601 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Signal molecules of the diffusible signal factor (DSF) family have been shown recently to be involved in regulation of pathogenesis and biofilm formation in diverse Gram-negative bacteria. DSF signals are reported to be active not only on their cognate bacteria, but also on unrelated bacteria and the pathogenic yeast, Candida albicans. DSFs are monounsaturated fatty acids of medium chain length containing an unusual cis-2 double bond. Although genetic analyses had identified genes involved in DSF synthesis, the pathway of DSF synthesis was unknown. The DSF of the important human pathogen Burkholderia cenocepacia (called BDSF) is cis-2-dodecenoic acid. We report that BDSF is synthesized from a fatty acid synthetic intermediate, the acyl carrier protein (ACP) thioester of 3-hydroxydodecanoic acid. This intermediate is intercepted by protein Bcam0581 and converted to cis-2-dodecenoyl-ACP. Bcam0581 is annotated as a homologue of crotonase, the first enzyme of the fatty acid degradation pathway. We demonstrated Bcam0581to be a bifunctional protein that not only catalysed dehydration of 3-hydroxydodecanoyl-ACP to cis-2-dodecenoyl-ACP, but also cleaved the thioester bond to give the free acid. Both activities required the same set of active-site residues. Although dehydratase and thioesterase activities are known activities of the crotonase superfamily, Bcam0581 is the first protein shown to have both activities.

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