Mycolic acids consist of long-chain α-alkyl-β-hydroxy fatty acids that are produced by successive rounds of elongation catalysed by a type II fatty acid synthase (FAS-II). A key feature in the elongation process is the condensation of a two-carbon unit from malonyl-acyl-carrier protein (ACP) to a growing acyl-ACP chain catalysed by a β-ketoacyl-ACP synthase (Kas). In the present study, we provide evidence that kasA from Mycobacterium tuberculosis encodes an enzyme that elongates in vivo the meromycolate chain, in both Mycobacterium smegmatis and Mycobacterium chelonae. We demonstrate that KasA belongs to the FAS-II system, which utilizes primarily palmitoyl-ACP rather than short-chain acyl-ACP primers. Furthermore, in an in vitro condensing assay using purified recombinant KasA, palmitoyl-AcpM and malonyl-AcpM, KasA was found to express Kas activity. Also, mutated KasA proteins, with mutation of Cys171, His311, Lys340 and His345 to Ala abrogated the condensation activity of KasA in vitro completely. Finally, purified KasA was highly sensitive to cerulenin, a well-known inhibitor of Kas, which may lead to the development of novel anti-mycobacterial drugs targeting KasA.

Abbreviations used: ACP, acyl-carrier protein; AcpM, ACP mycobacteria; C12, lauroyl; C14, myristoyl; C16, palmitoyl; DIG, digoxigenin; mtFabD, malonyl-CoA:ACP transacylase; FabH, mtFabH, β-ketoacyl-ACP synthase III; FAME, fatty acid methyl ester; FAS, fatty acid synthase; INH, isoniazid; Kas, β-ketoacyl-ACP synthase; MAME, mycolic acid methyl ester; MSG, Mycobacterium smegmatis; MTB, Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Author notes

1

The two authors contributed equally to this work.

2

Present address: INSERM U447, Institut Pasteur de Lille, 1 rue du Pr. Calmette, 59019 Lille, France.