Novel keto acid formate-lyase and propionate kinase enzymes are components of an anaerobic pathway in Escherichia coli that degrades L-threonine to propionate

Mol Microbiol. 1998 Jan;27(2):477-92. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1998.00696.x.


An immunological analysis of an Escherichia coli strain unable to synthesize the main pyruvate formate-lyase enzyme Pfl revealed the existence of a weak, cross-reacting 85 kDa polypeptide that exhibited the characteristic oxygen-dependent fragmentation typical of a glycyl radical enzyme. Polypeptide fragmentation of this cross-reacting species was shown to be dependent on Pfl activase. Cloning and sequence analysis of the gene encoding this protein revealed that it coded for a new enzyme, termed TdcE, which has 82% identity with Pfl. On the basis of RNA analyses, the tdcE gene was shown to be part of a large operon that included the tdcABC genes, encoding an anaerobic threonine dehydratase, tdcD, coding for a propionate kinase, tdcF, the function of which is unknown, and the tdcG gene, which encodes a L-serine dehydratase. Expression of the tdcABCDEFG operon was strongly catabolite repressed. Enzyme studies showed that TdcE has both pyruvate formate-lyase and 2-ketobutyrate formate-lyase activity, whereas the TdcD protein is a new propionate/acetate kinase. By monitoring culture supernatants from various mutants using 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), we followed the anaerobic conversion of L-threonine to propionate. These studies confirmed that 2-ketobutyrate, the product of threonine deamination, is converted in vivo by TdcE to propionyl-CoA. These studies also revealed that Pfl and an as yet unidentified thiamine pyrophosphate-dependent enzyme(s) can perform this reaction. Double null mutants deficient in phosphotransacetylase (Pta) and acetate kinase (AckA) or AckA and TdcD were unable to metabolize threonine to propionate, indicating that propionyl-CoA and propionyl-phosphate are intermediates in the pathway and that ATP is generated during the conversion of propionyl-P to propionate by AckA or TdcD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetyltransferases / genetics
  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Acyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Transport Systems, Neutral*
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Fermentation
  • Frameshift Mutation
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Phosphotransferases (Carboxyl Group Acceptor) / metabolism*
  • Propionates / metabolism*
  • Threonine / metabolism*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Amino Acid Transport Systems, Neutral
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Propionates
  • TdcA protein, E coli
  • Trans-Activators
  • tdcC protein, E coli
  • Threonine
  • Acyltransferases
  • Acetyltransferases
  • tdcE protein, E coli
  • glycine acetyltransferase
  • formate C-acetyltransferase
  • Phosphotransferases (Carboxyl Group Acceptor)
  • TdcD protein, E coli