Making and Breaking of an Essential Poison: the Cyclases and Phosphodiesterases That Produce and Degrade the Essential Second Messenger Cyclic di-AMP in Bacteria

J Bacteriol. 2018 Dec 7;201(1):e00462-18. doi: 10.1128/JB.00462-18. Print 2019 Jan 1.


Cyclic di-AMP is a second-messenger nucleotide that is produced by many bacteria and some archaea. Recent work has shown that c-di-AMP is unique among the signaling nucleotides, as this molecule is in many bacteria both essential on one hand and toxic upon accumulation on the other. Moreover, in bacteria, like Bacillus subtilis, c-di-AMP controls a biological process, potassium homeostasis, by binding both potassium transporters and riboswitch molecules in the mRNAs that encode the potassium transporters. In addition to the control of potassium homeostasis, c-di-AMP has been implicated in many cellular activities, including DNA repair, cell wall homeostasis, osmotic adaptation, biofilm formation, central metabolism, and virulence. c-di-AMP is synthesized and degraded by diadenylate cyclases and phosphodiesterases, respectively. In the diadenylate cyclases, one type of catalytic domain, the diadenylate cyclase (DAC) domain, is coupled to various other domains that control the localization, the protein-protein interactions, and the regulation of the enzymes. The phosphodiesterases have a catalytic core that consists either of a DHH/DHHA1 or of an HD domain. Recent findings on the occurrence, domain organization, activity control, and structural features of diadenylate cyclases and phosphodiesterases are discussed in this review.

Keywords: diadenylate cyclase; phosphodiesterase; second messenger; signal transduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / chemistry
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / genetics
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism*
  • Bacillus subtilis / enzymology*
  • Bacillus subtilis / metabolism*
  • Dinucleoside Phosphates / metabolism*
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / chemistry
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / genetics
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Protein Domains


  • Dinucleoside Phosphates
  • cyclic diadenosine phosphate
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases
  • Adenylyl Cyclases