Like fungi and some prokaryotes, plants use a thiazole synthase (THI4) to make the thiazole precursor of thiamin. Fungal THI4s are suicide enzymes that destroy an essential active-site Cys residue to obtain the sulfur atom needed for thiazole formation. In contrast, certain prokaryotic THI4s have no active-site Cys, use sulfide as sulfur donor, and are truly catalytic. The presence of a conserved active-site Cys in plant THI4s and other indirect evidence implies that they are suicidal. To confirm this, we complemented the Arabidopsis tz-1 mutant, which lacks THI4 activity, with a His-tagged Arabidopsis THI4 construct. LC-MS analysis of tryptic peptides of the THI4 extracted from leaves showed that the active-site Cys was predominantly in desulfurated form, consistent with THI4 having a suicide mechanism in planta. Unexpectedly, transcriptome datamining and deep proteome profiling showed that barley, wheat, and oat have both a widely expressed canonical THI4 with an active-site Cys, and a THI4-like paralog (non-Cys THI4) that has no active-site Cys and is the major type of THI4 in developing grains. Transcriptomic evidence also indicated that barley, wheat, and oat grains synthesize thiamin de novo, implying that their non-Cys THI4s synthesize thiazole. Structure modeling supported this inference, as did demonstration that non-Cys THI4s have significant capacity to complement thiazole auxotrophy in Escherichia coli. There is thus a prima facie case that non-Cys cereal THI4s, like their prokaryotic counterparts, are catalytic thiazole synthases. Bioenergetic calculations show that, relative to suicide THI4s, such enzymes could save substantial energy during the grain filling period.
Bioinformatic and experimental evidence for suicidal and catalytic plant THI4s
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Jaya Joshi, Guillaume A.W. Beaudoin, Jenelle A Patterson, Jorge D. García-García, Catherine E. Belisle, Lan-Yen Chang, Lei Li, Owen Duncan, A. Harvey Millar, Andrew D. Hanson; Bioinformatic and experimental evidence for suicidal and catalytic plant THI4s. Biochem J BCJ20200297. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/BCJ20200297
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