Putting their heads together: Bacteria that cause meningitis, gonorrhea and some cases of endocarditis and septicemia all express terpene synthase-like proteins. We showed that these head-to-head prenyl synthases generated presqualene diphosphate or dehydrosqualene and reported one X-ray structure with a bound inhibitor.
Many organisms contain head-to-head isoprenoid synthases; we investigated three such types of enzymes from the pathogens Neisseria meningitidis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Enterococcus hirae. The E. hirae enzyme was found to produce dehydrosqualene, and we solved an inhibitor-bound structure that revealed a fold similar to that of CrtM from Staphylococcus aureus. In contrast, the homologous proteins from Neisseria spp. carried out only the first half of the reaction, yielding presqualene diphosphate (PSPP). Based on product analyses, bioinformatics, and mutagenesis, we concluded that the Neisseria proteins were HpnDs (PSPP synthases). The differences in chemical reactivity to CrtM were due, at least in part, to the presence of a PSPP-stabilizing arginine in the HpnDs, decreasing the rate of dehydrosqualene biosynthesis. These results show that not only S. aureus but also other bacterial pathogens contain head-to-head prenyl synthases, although their biological functions remain to be elucidated.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.