Biosynthetic analysis of the petrobactin siderophore pathway from Bacillus anthracis

Jung Yeop Lee, Brian K. Janes, Karla D. Passalacqua, Brian F. Pfleger, Nicholas H. Bergman, Haichuan Liu, Kristina Håkansson, Ravindranadh V. Somu, Courtney C. Aldrich, Stephen Cendrowski, Philip C. Hanna, David H. Sherman

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The asbABCDEF gene cluster from Bacillus anthracis is responsible for biosynthesis of petrobactin, a catecholate siderophore that functions in both iron acquisition and virulence in a murine model of anthrax. We initiated studies to determine the biosynthetic details of petrobactin assembly based on mutational analysis of the asb operon, identification of accumulated intermediates, and addition of exogenous siderophores to ash mutant strains. As a starting point, in-frame deletions of each of the genes in the asb locus (asbABCDEF) were constructed. The individual mutations resulted in complete abrogation of petrobactin biosynthesis when strains were grown on iron-depleted medium. However, in vitro analysis showed that each asb mutant grew to a very limited extent as vegetative cells in iron-depleted medium. In contrast, none of the B. anthracis asb mutant strains were able to outgrow from spores under the same culture conditions. Provision of exogenous petrobactin was able to rescue the growth defect in each asb mutant strain. Taken together, these data provide compelling evidence that AsbA performs the penultimate step in the biosynthesis of petrobactin, involving condensation of 3,4-dihydroxybenzoyl spermidine with citrate to form 3,4-dihydroxybenzoyl spermidinyl citrate. As a final step, the data reveal that AsbB catalyzes condensation of a second molecule of 3,4-dinydroxybenzoyl spermidine with 3,4-dihydroxybenzoyl spermidinyl citrate to form the mature siderophore. This work sets the stage for detailed biochemical studies with this unique acyl carrier protein-dependent, nonribosomal peptide synthetase-independent biosynthetic system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1698-1710
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2007


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