Small Alarmone Synthetase SasA Expression Leads to Concomitant Accumulation of pGpp, ppApp, and AppppA in Bacillus subtilis

Front Microbiol. 2020 Sep 2;11:2083. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.02083. eCollection 2020.


(p)ppGpp is a highly conserved bacterial alarmone which regulates many aspects of cellular physiology and metabolism. In Gram-positive bacteria such as B. subtilis, cellular (p)ppGpp level is determined by the bifunctional (p)ppGpp synthetase/hydrolase RelA and two small alarmone synthetases (SASs) YjbM (SasB) and YwaC (SasA). However, it is less clear whether these enzymes are also involved in regulation of alarmones outside of (p)ppGpp. Here we developed an improved LC-MS-based method to detect a broad spectrum of metabolites and alarmones from bacterial cultures with high efficiency. By characterizing the metabolomic signatures of SasA expressing B. subtilis, we identified strong accumulation of the (p)ppGpp analog pGpp, as well as accumulation of ppApp and AppppA. The induced accumulation of these alarmones is abolished in the catalytically dead sasA mutant, suggesting that it is a consequence of SasA synthetase activity. In addition, we also identified depletion of specific purine nucleotides and their precursors including IMP precursors FGAR, SAICAR and AICAR (ZMP), as well as GTP and GDP. Furthermore, we also revealed depletion of multiple pyrimidine precursors such as orotate and orotidine 5'-phosphate. Taken together, our work shows that induction of a single (p)ppGpp synthetase can cause concomitant accumulation and potential regulatory interplay of multiple alarmones.

Keywords: AppppA; RelP; SasA; YwaC; alarmone; pGpp; ppApp; ppGpp.