Background: Staphylococcus aureus synthesizes two siderophores, staphyloferrin A and staphyloferrin B, that promote iron-restricted growth. Previous work on the biosynthesis of staphyloferrin B has focused on the role of the synthetase enzymes, encoded from within the sbnA-I operon, which build the siderophore from the precursor molecules citrate, alpha-ketoglutarate and L-2,3-diaminopropionic acid. However, no information yet exists on several other enzymes, expressed from the biosynthetic cluster, that are thought to be involved in the synthesis of the precursors (or synthetase substrates) themselves.
Results: Using mutants carrying insertions in sbnA and sbnB, we show that these two genes are essential for the synthesis of staphyloferrin B, and that supplementation of the growth medium with L-2,3-diaminopropionic acid can bypass the block in staphyloferrin B synthesis displayed by the mutants. Several mechanisms are proposed for how the enzymes SbnA, with similarity to cysteine synthase enzymes, and SbnB, with similarity to amino acid dehydrogenases and ornithine cyclodeaminases, function together in the synthesis of this unusual nonproteinogenic amino acid L-2,3-diaminopropionic acid.
Conclusions: Mutation of either sbnA or sbnB result in abrogation of synthesis of staphyloferrin B, a siderophore that contributes to iron-restricted growth of S. aureus. The loss of staphyloferrin B synthesis is due to an inability to synthesize the unusual amino acid L-2,3-diaminopropionic acid which is an important, iron-liganding component of the siderophore structure. It is proposed that SbnA and SbnB function together as an L-Dap synthase in the S. aureus cell.