Biosynthesis of δ-aminolevulinic acid from glutamate by Sulfolobus solfataricus

Gail L. Matters, Samuel I. Beale

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The extremely thermophilic, obligately aerobic bacterium Sulfolobus solfataricus forms the tetrapyrrole precursor, δ-aminolevulinic acid (ALA), from glutamate by the tRNA-dependent five-carbon pathway. This pathway has been previously shown to occur in plants, algae, and most prokaryotes with the exception of the α-group of proteobacteria (purple bacteria). An alternative mode of ALA formation by condensation of glycine and succinyl-CoA occurs in animals, yeasts, fungi, and the α-proteobacteria. Sulfolobus and several other thermophilic, sulfur-dependent bacteria, have been variously placed within a subgroup of archaea (archaebacteria) named crenarchaeotes, or have been proposed to comprise a distinct prokaryotic group designated eocytes. On the basis of ribosomal structure and certain other criteria, eocytes have been proposed as predecessors of the nuclear-cytoplasmic descent line of eukaryotes. Because aplastidic eukaryotes differ from most prokaryotes in their mode of ALA formation, and in view of the proposed affiliation of eocytes to eukaryotes, it was of interest to determine how eocytes form ALA. Sulfolobus extracts were able to incorporate label from [1-14C]glutamate, but not from [2-14C]glycine, into ALA. Glutamate incorporation was abolished by preincubation of the extract with RNase. Sulfolobus extracts contained glutamate-1-semialdehyde aminotransferase activity, which is indicative of the five-carbon pathway. Growth of Sulfolobus was inhibited by gabaculine, a mechanism-based inhibitor of glutamate-1-semialdehyde aminotransferase, an enzyme of the five-carbon ALA biosynthetic pathway. These results indicate that Sulfolobus uses the five-carbon pathway for ALA formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-276
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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