Background: All organisms must synthesize the enzymatic cofactor coenzyme A (CoA) from the precursor pantothenate. Most bacteria can synthesize pantothenate de novo by the condensation of pantoate and β-alanine. The synthesis of β-alanine is catalyzed by L-aspartate-α-decarboxylase (PanD), a pyruvoyl enzyme that is initially synthesized as a zymogen (pro-PanD). Active PanD is generated by self-cleavage of pro-PanD at Gly24-Ser25 creating the active-site pyruvoyl moiety. In Salmonella enterica, this cleavage requires PanM, an acetyl-CoA sensor related to the Gcn5-like N-acetyltransferases. PanM does not acetylate pro-PanD, but the recent publication of the three-dimensional crystal structure of the PanM homologue PanZ in complex with the PanD zymogen of Escherichia coli provides validation to our predictions and provides a framework in which to further examine the cleavage mechanism. In contrast, PanD from bacteria lacking PanM efficiently cleaved in the absence of PanM in vivo.
Results: Using phylogenetic analyses combined with in vivo phenotypic investigations, we showed that two classes of bacterial L-aspartate-α-decarboxylases exist. This classification is based on their posttranslational activation by self-cleavage of its zymogen. Class I L-aspartate-α-decarboxylase zymogens require the acetyl-CoA sensor PanM to be cleaved into active PanD. This class is found exclusively in the Gammaproteobacteria. Class II L-aspartate-α-decarboxylase zymogens self cleave efficiently in the absence of PanM, and are found in a wide number of bacterial phyla. Several members of the Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota also contain Class II L-aspartate-α-decarboxylases. Phylogenetic and amino acid conservation analyses of PanM revealed a conserved region of PanM distinct from conserved regions found in related Gcn5-related acetyltransferase enzymes (Pfam00583). This conserved region represents a putative domain for interactions with L-aspartate-α-decarboxylase zymogens. This work may inform future biochemical and structural studies of pro-PanD-PanM interactions.
Conclusions: Experimental results indicate that S. enterica and C. glutamicum L-aspartate-α-decarboxylases represent two different classes of homologues of these enzymes. Class I homologues require PanM for activation, while Class II self cleave in the absence of PanM. Computer modeling of conserved amino acids using structure coordinates of PanM and L-aspartate-α-decarboxylase available in the protein data bank (RCSB PDB) revealed a putative site of interactions, which may help generate models to help understand the molecular details of the self-cleavage mechanism of L-aspartate-α-decarboxylases.