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Mol Microbiol. 2014 Dec;94(6):1330-42. doi: 10.1111/mmi.12832. Epub 2014 Nov 6.

Novel proteins for homocysteine biosynthesis in anaerobic microorganisms.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oregon Health and Science University, 3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road Portland, OR, 97239-3098, USA.


The metabolic network for sulfide assimilation and trafficking in methanogens is largely unknown. To discover novel proteins required for these processes, we used bioinformatics to identify genes co-occurring with the protein biosynthesis enzyme SepCysS, which converts phosphoseryl-tRNA(Cys) to cysteinyl-tRNA(Cys) in nearly all methanogens. Exhaustive analysis revealed three conserved protein families, each containing molecular signatures predicting function in sulfur metabolism. One of these families, classified within clusters of orthologous groups (COG) 1900, possesses two conserved cysteine residues and is often found in genomic contexts together with known sulfur metabolic genes. A second protein family is predicted to bind two 4Fe-4S clusters. All three genes were also identified in more than 50 strictly anaerobic bacterial genera from nine distinct phyla. Gene-deletion and growth experiments in Methanosarcina acetivorans, using sulfide as the sole sulfur source, demonstrate that two of the proteins (MA1821 and MA1822) are essential to homocysteine biosynthesis in a background lacking an additional gene for sulfur insertion into homocysteine. Mutational analysis confirms the importance of several structural elements, including a conserved cysteine residue and the predicted 4Fe-4S cluster-binding domain.

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