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J Bacteriol. 2017 Jul 25;199(16). pii: e00159-17. doi: 10.1128/JB.00159-17. Print 2017 Aug 15.

Cysteine Biosynthesis Controls Serratia marcescens Phospholipase Activity.

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University of Michigan Medical School, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
University of Michigan Medical School, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA


Serratia marcescens causes health care-associated opportunistic infections that can be difficult to treat due to a high incidence of antibiotic resistance. One of the many secreted proteins of S. marcescens is the PhlA phospholipase enzyme. Genes involved in the production and secretion of PhlA were identified by screening a transposon insertion library for phospholipase-deficient mutants on phosphatidylcholine-containing medium. Mutations were identified in four genes (cyaA, crp, fliJ, and fliP) that are involved in the flagellum-dependent PhlA secretion pathway. An additional phospholipase-deficient isolate harbored a transposon insertion in the cysE gene encoding a predicted serine O-acetyltransferase required for cysteine biosynthesis. The cysE requirement for extracellular phospholipase activity was confirmed using a fluorogenic phospholipase substrate. Phospholipase activity was restored to the cysE mutant by the addition of exogenous l-cysteine or O-acetylserine to the culture medium and by genetic complementation. Additionally, phlA transcript levels were decreased 6-fold in bacteria lacking cysE and were restored with added cysteine, indicating a role for cysteine-dependent transcriptional regulation of S. marcescens phospholipase activity. S. marcescenscysE mutants also exhibited a defect in swarming motility that was correlated with reduced levels of flhD and fliA flagellar regulator gene transcription. Together, these findings suggest a model in which cysteine is required for the regulation of both extracellular phospholipase activity and surface motility in S. marcescensIMPORTANCESerratia marcescens is known to secrete multiple extracellular enzymes, but PhlA is unusual in that this protein is thought to be exported by the flagellar transport apparatus. In this study, we demonstrate that both extracellular phospholipase activity and flagellar function are dependent on the cysteine biosynthesis pathway. Furthermore, a disruption of cysteine biosynthesis results in decreased phlA and flagellar gene transcription, which can be restored by supplying bacteria with exogenous cysteine. These results identify a previously unrecognized role for CysE and cysteine in the secretion of S. marcescens phospholipase and in bacterial motility.


Serratia; cysteine; flagella; phospholipase

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