Varied functionality of an enzyme that breaks down lipids

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet recently published a study on npj Biofilms and Microbiomeswhich describes the properties of an enzyme that breaks down lipids.

In nature, microorganisms, including bacteria, come in different forms. Escherichia coli, a commensal rod-shaped bacterium of the human gut, can easily change its shape upon exposure to stress. Many times, E. coli blocks cell division, but continues to grow in length, leading to filamentous cells.

Phospholipases are enzymes that specifically hydrolyse one or more ester bonds of neutral lipids and phospholipids, major components of the cell membrane. The study revealed that a single amino acid variant of a patatin-like phospholipase manipulates various physiological functions. These findings indicate a rapid alteration of protein functionality by substitution of a single amino acid conserved in bacteria cultured in the laboratory.

“We detected the patatin-like phospholipase variant by chance. It was essentially a laboratory cloning artifact that we observed in the laboratory model organism Escherichia coli K-12,” explains Ute Römling, Professor of Medical Microbial Physiology in the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology at Karolinska Institutet “However, we considered the effect of variant enzyme expression to be so dramatic that we followed this. Moreover, the effects of the variant protein were not limited to the laboratory model, but were also observed in several strains of E. commensal and pathogenic coli.

The ability to study protein evolution

The observed substantial alteration or exaggeration in the functionality of proteins provides the opportunity to study protein evolution. As this amino acid substitution, at a conserved position in the protein, is not present in natural homologous proteins, the question arises as to what negatively selects against this amino acid substitution in phospholipase.

“In combination with the observed alterations in cell morphology and physiology, we not only have a model system in place that will allow us to study potentially novel molecular mechanisms regulating cell division and biofilm formation, but also harmful effects of amino acid substitution. concludes Ute Römling.


Tiny Variations in Protein Have a Huge Impact on All Animals and Plants


More information:

Fengyang Li et al, CapV patatin-like phospholipase in Escherichia coli – morphological and physiological effects of amino acid substitution, npj Biofilms and Microbiomes (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41522-022-00294-z

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Karolinska Institute

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Varied functionality of an enzyme that breaks down lipids (May 11, 2022)
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