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Journal Article

L-Proline Synthesis Mutants of Bacillus subtilis Overcome Osmotic Sensitivity by Genetically Adapting L-Arginine Metabolism


Stecker,  D.
Max Planck Society;

Hoffmann,  T.
Max Planck Society;


Link,  H.
Emmy Noether Research Group Dynamic Control of Metabolic Networks, Alumni, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

Commichau,  F. M.
Max Planck Society;

Bremer,  E.
Max Planck Society;

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Stecker, D., Hoffmann, T., Link, H., Commichau, F. M., & Bremer, E. (2022). L-Proline Synthesis Mutants of Bacillus subtilis Overcome Osmotic Sensitivity by Genetically Adapting L-Arginine Metabolism. Front Microbiol, 13, 908304. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2022.908304.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-B2A3-4
The accumulation of the compatible solute L-proline by Bacillus subtilis via synthesis is a cornerstone in the cell's defense against high salinity as the genetic disruption of this biosynthetic process causes osmotic sensitivity. To understand how B. subtilis could potentially cope with high osmolarity surroundings without the functioning of its natural osmostress adaptive L-proline biosynthetic route (ProJ-ProA-ProH), we isolated suppressor strains of proA mutants under high-salinity growth conditions. These osmostress-tolerant strains carried mutations affecting either the AhrC transcriptional regulator or its operator positioned in front of the argCJBD-carAB-argF L-ornithine/L-citrulline/L-arginine biosynthetic operon. Osmostress protection assays, molecular analysis and targeted metabolomics showed that these mutations, in conjunction with regulatory mutations affecting rocR-rocDEF expression, connect and re-purpose three different physiological processes: (i) the biosynthetic pathway for L-arginine, (ii) the RocD-dependent degradation route for L-ornithine, and (iii) the last step in L-proline biosynthesis. Hence, osmostress adaptation without a functional ProJ-ProA-ProH route is made possible through a naturally existing, but inefficient, metabolic shunt that allows to substitute the enzyme activity of ProA by feeding the RocD-formed metabolite gamma-glutamate-semialdehyde/Delta(1)-pyrroline-5-carboxylate into the biosynthetic route for the compatible solute L-proline. Notably, in one class of mutants, not only substantial L-proline pools but also large pools of L-citrulline were accumulated, a rather uncommon compatible solute in microorganisms. Collectively, our data provide an example of the considerable genetic plasticity and metabolic resourcefulness of B. subtilis to cope with everchanging environmental conditions.