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J Bacteriol. 2019 Jul 10;201(15). pii: e00120-19. doi: 10.1128/JB.00120-19. Print 2019 Aug 1.

A Mutagenic Screen Identifies a TonB-Dependent Receptor Required for the Lanthanide Metal Switch in the Type I Methanotroph "Methylotuvimicrobium buryatense" 5GB1C.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.


Several of the metabolic enzymes in methanotrophic bacteria rely on metals for both their expression and their catalysis. The MxaFI methanol dehydrogenase enzyme complex uses calcium as a cofactor to oxidize methanol, while the alternative methanol dehydrogenase XoxF uses lanthanide metals such as lanthanum and cerium for the same function. Lanthanide metals, abundant in the earth's crust, strongly repress the transcription of mxaF yet activate the transcription of xoxF This regulatory program, called the "lanthanide switch," is central to methylotrophic metabolism, but only some of its components are known. To uncover additional components of the lanthanide switch, we developed a chemical mutagenesis system in the type I gammaproteobacterial methanotroph "Methylotuvimicrobium buryatense" 5GB1C and designed a selection system for mutants unable to repress the mxaF promoter in the presence of lanthanum. Whole-genome resequencing for multiple lanthanide switch mutants identified several unique point mutations in a single gene encoding a TonB-dependent receptor, which we have named LanA. The LanA TonB-dependent receptor is absolutely required for the lanthanide switch and controls the expression of a small set of genes. While mutation of the lanA gene does not affect the amount of cell-associated lanthanum, it is essential for growth in the absence of the MxaF methanol dehydrogenase, suggesting that LanA is involved in lanthanum uptake to supply the XoxF methanol dehydrogenase with its critical metal ion cofactor. The discovery of this novel component of the lanthanide regulatory system highlights the complexity of this circuit and suggests that further components are likely involved.IMPORTANCE Lanthanide metals, or rare earth elements, are abundant in nature and used heavily in technological devices. Biological interactions with lanthanides are just beginning to be unraveled. Until very recently, microbial mechanisms of lanthanide metal interaction and uptake were unknown. The TonB-dependent receptor LanA is the first lanthanum receptor identified in a methanotroph. Sequence homology searches with known metal transporters and regulators could not be used to identify LanA or other lanthanide metal switch components, and this method for mutagenesis and selection was required to identify the receptor. This work advances the knowledge of microbe-metal interactions in environmental niches that impact atmospheric methane levels and are thus relevant to climate change.


gene regulation; genetics; lanthanide; methanol dehydrogenase; methanotrophs; mutagenesis

[Available on 2020-01-10]

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