Unexpected property of ectoine synthase and its application for synthesis of the engineered compatible solute ADPC

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2011 Jul;91(1):113-22. doi: 10.1007/s00253-011-3211-9. Epub 2011 Apr 6.


A new cyclic amino acid was detected in a deletion mutant of the moderately halophilic bacterium Halomonas elongata deficient in ectoine synthesis. Using mass spectroscopy (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques, the substance was identified as 5-amino-3,4-dihydro-2H-pyrrole-2-carboxylate (ADPC). We were able to demonstrate that ADPC is the product of a side reaction of lone ectoine synthase (EC, which forms ADPC by cyclic condensation of glutamine. This reaction was shown to be reversible. Subsequently, a number of ectoine derivatives, in particular 4,5-dihydro-2-methylimidazole-4-carboxylate (DHMICA) and homoectoine, were also shown to be cleaved by ectoine synthase, which is classified as a hydro-lyase. This study thus reports for the first time that ectoine synthase accepts more than one substrate and is a reversible enzyme able to catalyze both the intramolecular condensation into and the hydrolytic cleavage of cyclic amino acid derivatives. As ADPC supports growth of bacteria under salt stress conditions and stabilizes enzymes against freeze-thaw denaturation, it displays typical properties of compatible solutes. As ADPC has not yet been described as a natural compound, it is presented here as the first man-made compatible solute created through genetic engineering.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Genetic Engineering*
  • Halomonas / enzymology*
  • Halomonas / genetics
  • Halomonas / metabolism
  • Hydro-Lyases / chemistry
  • Hydro-Lyases / genetics
  • Hydro-Lyases / metabolism*
  • Proline / analogs & derivatives*
  • Proline / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Proline
  • Hydro-Lyases
  • ectoine synthase