An Unexpected Role for the Periplasmic Phosphatase PhoN in the Salvage of B6 Vitamers in Salmonella enterica

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2021 Jan 15;87(3):e02300-20. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02300-20. Print 2021 Jan 15.


Pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP) is the biologically active form of vitamin B6, essential for cellular function in all domains of life. In many organisms, such as Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Escherichia coli, this cofactor can be synthesized de novo or salvaged from B6 vitamers in the environment. Unexpectedly, S. enterica strains blocked in PLP biosynthesis were able to use exogenous PLP and pyridoxine 5'-phosphate (PNP) as the source of this required cofactor, while E. coli strains of the same genotype could not. Transposon mutagenesis found that phoN was essential for the salvage of PLP and PNP under the conditions tested. phoN encodes a class A nonspecific acid phosphatase (EC that is transcriptionally regulated by the PhoPQ two-component system. The periplasmic location of PhoN was essential for PLP and PNP salvage, and in vitro assays confirmed PhoN has phosphatase activity with PLP and PNP as substrates. The data suggest that PhoN dephosphorylates B6 vitamers, after which they enter the cytoplasm and are phosphorylated by kinases of the canonical PLP salvage pathway. The connection of phoN with PhoPQ and the broad specificity of the gene product suggest S. enterica is exploiting a moonlighting activity of PhoN for PLP salvage.IMPORTANCE Nutrient salvage is a strategy used by species across domains of life to conserve energy. Many organisms are unable to synthesize all required metabolites de novo and must rely exclusively on salvage. Others supplement de novo synthesis with the ability to salvage. This study identified an unexpected mechanism present in S. enterica that allows salvage of phosphorylated B6 vitamers. In vivo and in vitro data herein determined that the periplasmic phosphatase PhoN can facilitate the salvage of PLP and PNP. We suggest a mechanistic working model of PhoN-dependent utilization of PLP and PNP and discuss the general role of promiscuous phosphatases and kinases in organismal fitness.

Keywords: PhoN; acid phosphatase; pyridoxal 5′-phosphate; vitamin B6; vitamin salvage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Periplasm / enzymology*
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Pyridoxal Phosphate / analogs & derivatives*
  • Pyridoxal Phosphate / metabolism
  • Salmonella enterica / enzymology*
  • Salmonella enterica / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Pyridoxal Phosphate
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • pyridoxine 5-phosphate