In Staphylococcus aureus, the acyl-CoA synthetase MbcS supports branched-chain fatty acid synthesis from carboxylic acid and aldehyde precursors

Mol Microbiol. 2024 May;121(5):865-881. doi: 10.1111/mmi.15237. Epub 2024 Feb 16.


In the human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, branched-chain fatty acids (BCFAs) are the most abundant fatty acids in membrane phospholipids. Strains deficient for BCFAs synthesis experience auxotrophy in laboratory culture and attenuated virulence during infection. Furthermore, the membrane of S. aureus is among the main targets for antibiotic therapy. Therefore, determining the mechanisms involved in BCFAs synthesis is critical to manage S. aureus infections. Here, we report that the overexpression of SAUSA300_2542 (annotated to encode an acyl-CoA synthetase) restores BCFAs synthesis in strains lacking the canonical biosynthetic pathway catalyzed by the branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase (BKDH) complex. We demonstrate that the acyl-CoA synthetase activity of MbcS activates branched-chain carboxylic acids (BCCAs), and is required by S. aureus to utilize the isoleucine derivative 2-methylbutyraldehyde to restore BCFAs synthesis in S. aureus. Based on the ability of some staphylococci to convert branched-chain aldehydes into their respective BCCAs and our findings demonstrating that branched-chain aldehydes are in fact BCFAs precursors, we propose that MbcS promotes the scavenging of exogenous BCCAs and mediates BCFA synthesis via a de novo alternative pathway.

Keywords: Staphylococcus aureus; BKDH complex; MRSA; branched‐chain fatty acids; fatty acids metabolism; membrane phospholipids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aldehydes* / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Carboxylic Acids* / metabolism
  • Coenzyme A Ligases* / genetics
  • Coenzyme A Ligases* / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids* / biosynthesis
  • Fatty Acids* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus* / enzymology
  • Staphylococcus aureus* / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus* / metabolism