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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Noncanonical coproporphyrin-dependent bacterial heme biosynthesis pathway that does not use protoporphyrin.


PMID 25646457

Abstract

It has been generally accepted that biosynthesis of protoheme (heme) uses a common set of core metabolic intermediates that includes protoporphyrin. Herein, we show that the Actinobacteria and Firmicutes (high-GC and low-GC Gram-positive bacteria) are unable to synthesize protoporphyrin. Instead, they oxidize coproporphyrinogen to coproporphyrin, insert ferrous iron to make Fe-coproporphyrin (coproheme), and then decarboxylate coproheme to generate protoheme. This pathway is specified by three genes named hemY, hemH, and hemQ. The analysis of 982 representative prokaryotic genomes is consistent with this pathway being the most ancient heme synthesis pathway in the Eubacteria. Our results identifying a previously unknown branch of tetrapyrrole synthesis support a significant shift from current models for the evolution of bacterial heme and chlorophyll synthesis. Because some organisms that possess this coproporphyrin-dependent branch are major causes of human disease, HemQ is a novel pharmacological target of significant therapeutic relevance, particularly given high rates of antimicrobial resistance among these pathogens.

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