Identification of a S-(2-succino)cysteine breakdown pathway that uses a novel S-(2-succino) lyase

Katie B. Hillmann, Madeline E. Goethel, Natalie A. Erickson, Thomas D. Niehaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Succination is the spontaneous reaction between the respiratory intermediate fumarate and cellular thiols that forms stable S-(2-succino)-adducts such as S-(2-succino)cysteine (2SC). 2SC is a biomarker for conditions associated with elevated fumarate levels, including diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers, and succination likely contributes to disease progression. Bacillus subtilis has a yxe operon-encoded breakdown pathway for 2SC that involves three distinct enzymatic conversions. The first step is N-acetylation of 2SC by YxeL to form N-acetyl-2SC (2SNAC). YxeK catalyzes the oxygenation of 2SNAC, resulting in its breakdown to oxaloacetate and N-acetylcysteine, which is deacetylated by YxeP to give cysteine. The monooxygenase YxeK is key to the pathway but is rare, with close homologs occurring infrequently in prokaryote and fungal genomes. The existence of additional 2SC breakdown pathways was not known prior to this study. Here, we used comparative genomics to identify a S-(2-succino) lyase (2SL) that replaces yxeK in some yxe gene clusters. 2SL genes from Enterococcus italicus and Dickeya dadantii complement B. subtilis yxeK mutants. We also determined that recombinant 2SL enzymes efficiently break down 2SNAC into fumarate and N-acetylcysteine, can perform the reverse reaction, and have minor activity against 2SC and other small molecule thiols. The strong preferences both YxeK and 2SL enzymes have for 2SNAC indicate that 2SC acetylation is a conserved breakdown step. The identification of a second naturally occurring 2SC breakdown pathway underscores the importance of 2SC catabolism and defines a general strategy for 2SC breakdown involving acetylation, breakdown, and deacetylation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102639
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by lab startup funds from the Plant and Microbial Biology Department and the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • 2SC
  • S-(2-succino)cysteine
  • cysteine
  • fumarate
  • metabolite damage
  • metabolite repair
  • oncometabolite
  • succination

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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