Coenzyme A (CoA) is an essential cofactor for all forms of life. The biochemistry underpinning the assembly of CoA in Escherichia coli and other enterobacteria is well understood, except for the events leading to maturation of the L-aspartate-α-decarboxylase (PanD) enzyme that converts pantothenate to β-alanine. PanD is synthesized as pro-PanD, which undergoes an auto-proteolytic cleavage at residue Ser25 to yield the catalytic pyruvoyl moiety of the enzyme. Since 1990, it has been known that E. coli yhhK strains are pantothenate auxotrophs, but the role of YhhK in pantothenate biosynthesis remained an enigma. Here we show that Salmonella enterica yhhK strains are also pantothenate auxotrophs. In vivo and in vitro evidence shows that YhhK interacts directly with PanD, and that such interactions accelerate pro-PanD maturation. We also show that S. enterica yhhK strains accumulate pro-PanD, and that not all pro-PanD proteins require YhhK for maturation. For example, the Corynebacterium glutamicum panD(+) gene corrected the pantothenate auxotrophy of a S. enterica yhhK strain, supporting in vitro evidence obtained by others that some pro-PanD proteins autocleave at faster rates. We propose the name PanM for YhhK to reflect its role as a trigger of pro-PanD maturation by stabilizing pro-PanD in an autocleavage-prone conformation.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.