Activation of fatty acids as acyl-adenylates by fatty acyl-AMP ligases (FAALs) in Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a variant of a classical theme that involves formation of acyl-CoA (coenzyme A) by fatty acyl-CoA ligases (FACLs). Here, we show that FAALs and FACLs possess similar structural fold and substrate specificity determinants, and the key difference is the absence of a unique insertion sequence in FACL13 structure. A systematic analysis shows a conserved hydrophobic anchorage of the insertion motif across several FAALs. Strikingly, mutagenesis of two phenylalanine residues, which are part of the anchorage, to alanine converts FAAL32 to FACL32. This insertion-based in silico analysis suggests the presence of FAAL homologues in several other non-mycobacterial genomes including eukaryotes. The work presented here establishes an elegant mechanism wherein an insertion sequence drives the functional divergence of FAALs from canonical FACLs.
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