The facultatively anaerobic bacterium Alcaligenes defragrans NKNTAU was found to oxidize taurine (2-aminoethanesulphonate) with nitrate as the terminal electron acceptor. Taurine was transaminated to 2-sulphoacetaldehyde. This was not converted into sulphite and acetate by a ‘sulphoacetaldehyde sulpho-lyase’ (EC 4.4.1.12), but into sulphite and acetyl phosphate, which was identified by three methods. The enzyme, which required the addition of phosphate, thiamin diphosphate and Mg2+ ions for activity, was renamed sulphoacetaldehyde acetyltransferase (Xsc; EC 2.3.1.-). Inducible Xsc was expressed at high levels, and a three-step 11-fold purification yielded an essentially homogeneous soluble protein, which was a homotetramer in its native form; the molecular mass of the subunit was found to be between about 63kDa (SDS/PAGE) and 65.3kDa (matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization—time-of-flight MS). The N-terminal and two internal amino acid sequences were determined, and PCR primers were generated. The xsc gene was amplified and sequenced; the derived molecular mass of the processed protein was 65.0kDa. The downstream gene presumably encoded the inducible phosphate acetyltransferase (Pta) found in crude extracts. The desulphonative enzymes ('EC 4.4.1.12') from Achromobacter xylosoxidans NCIMB 10751 and Desulfonispora thiosulfatigenes GKNTAU were shown to be Xscs. We detected at least three subclasses of xsc in Proteobacteria and in Gram-positive bacteria, and they comprised a distinct group within the acetohydroxyacid synthase supergene family. Genome sequencing data revealed xsc genes in Burkholderia fungorum (80% sequence identity) and Sinorhizobium meliloti (61%) with closely linked pta genes. Different patterns of regulation for the transport and dissimilation of taurine were hypothesized for S. meliloti and B. fungorum.

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