Distinct Paths for Basic Amino Acid Export in Escherichia coli: YbjE (LysO) Mediates Export of L-Lysine

J Bacteriol. 2015 Jun 15;197(12):2036-47. doi: 10.1128/JB.02505-14. Epub 2015 Apr 6.


In Escherichia coli, argO encodes an exporter for L-arginine (Arg) and its toxic analogue canavanine (CAN), and its transcriptional activation and repression, by Arg and L-lysine (Lys), respectively, are mediated by the regulator ArgP. Accordingly argO and argP mutants are CAN supersensitive (CAN(ss)). We report the identification of ybjE as a gene encoding a predicted inner membrane protein that mediates export of Lys, and our results confirm the previous identification with a different approach of YbjE as a Lys exporter, reported by Ueda and coworkers (T. Ueda, Y. Nakai, Y. Gunji, R. Takikawa, and Y. Joe, U.S. patents 7,629,142 B2 [December 2009] and 8,383,363 B1 [February 2013] and European patent 1,664,318 B1 [September 2009]). ybjE was isolated as a multicopy suppressor of the CAN(ss) phenotype of a strain lacking ArgO. The absence of YbjE did not confer a CAN(ss) phenotype but instead conferred hypersensitivity to the lysine antimetabolite thialysine and led to growth inhibition by the dipeptide lysylalanine, which is associated with elevated cellular Lys content. YbjE overproduction resulted in Lys excretion and syntrophic cross-feeding of a Lys auxotroph. Constitutive overexpression of argO promoted Lys cross-feeding that is indicative of a latent Lys export potential of ArgO. Arg modestly repressed ybjE transcription in an ArgR-dependent manner, and ArgR displayed Arg-sensitive binding to the ybjE promoter region in vitro. Our studies suggest that the reciprocal repression of argO and ybjE, respectively, by Lys and Arg confers the specificity for basic amino acid export by distinct paths and that such cross-repression contributes to maintenance of cytoplasmic Arg/Lys balance. We propose that YbjE be redesignated LysO.

Importance: This work ascribes a lysine export function to the product of the ybjE gene of Escherichia coli, leading to a physiological scenario wherein two proteins, ArgO and YbjE, perform the task of separately exporting arginine and lysine, respectively, which is distinct from that seen for Corynebacterium glutamicum, where the ortholog of ArgO, LysE, mediates export of both arginine and lysine. Repression of argO transcription by lysine is thought to effect this separation. Accordingly, ArgO mediates lysine export when repression of its transcription by lysine is bypassed. Repression of ybjE transcription by arginine via the ArgR repressor, together with the lysine repression of argO effected by ArgP, is indicative of a mechanism of maintenance of arginine/lysine balance in E. coli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Transport Systems, Basic / genetics
  • Amino Acid Transport Systems, Basic / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Cysteine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Genotype
  • Lysine / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Plasmids


  • Amino Acid Transport Systems, Basic
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • YbjE protein, E coli
  • S-2-aminoethyl cysteine
  • Lysine
  • Cysteine