Functional demonstration of reverse transsulfuration in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex reveals that methionine is the preferred sulfur source for pathogenic mycobacteria

Paul R. Wheeler*, Nicholas G. Coldham, Lisa Keating, Stephen V. Gordon, Esen E. Wooff, Tanya Parish, R. Glyn Hewinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Methionine can be used as the sole sulfur source by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex although it is not obvious from examination of the genome annotation how these bacteria utilize methionine. Given that genome annotation is a largely predictive process, key challenges are to validate these predictions and to fill in gaps for known functions for which genes have not been annotated. We have addressed these issues by functional analysis of methionine metabolism. Transport, followed by metabolism of 35S methionine into the cysteine adduct mycothiol, demonstrated the conversion of exogenous methionine to cysteine. Mutational analysis and cloning of the Rv1079 gene showed it to encode the key enzyme required for this conversion, cystathionine γ-lyase (CGL). Rv1079, annotated metB, was predicted to encode cystathionine γ-synthase (CGS), but demonstration of a γ-elimination reaction with cystathionine as well as the γ-replacement reaction yielding cystathionine showed it encodes a bifunctional CGL/CGS enzyme. Consistent with this, a Rv1079 mutant could not incorporate sulfur from methionine into cysteine, while a cysA mutant lacking sulfate transport and a methionine auxotroph was hypersensitive to the CGL inhibitor propargylglycine. Thus, reverse transsulfuration alone, without any sulfur recycling reactions, allows M.tuberculosis to use methionine as the sole sulfur source. Intracellular cysteine was undetectable so only the CGL reaction occurs in intact mycobacteria. Cysteine desulfhydrase, an activity we showed to be separable from CGL/CGS, may have a role in removing excess cysteine and could explain the ability of M. tuberculosis to recycle sulfur from cysteine, but not methionine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8069-8078
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Volume280
Issue number9
Early online date02 Dec 2004
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 04 Mar 2005

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