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A bacteriophage enzyme induces bacterial metabolic perturbation that confers a novel promiscuous function

Journal article
Authors J. J. Hultqvist
O. Warsi
A. Soderholm
M. Knopp
U. Eckhard
Egor Vorontsov
M. Selmer
D. I. Andersson
Published in Nature Ecology & Evolution
Volume 2
Issue 8
Pages 1321-1330
ISSN 2397-334X
Publication year 2018
Published at Core Facilities, Proteomics
Pages 1321-1330
Language en
Keywords s-adenosylmethionine hydrolase, escherichia-coli, saccharomyces-cerevisiae, underground metabolism, antibiotic-resistance, gene, synthase, amplification, biosynthesis, homoserine, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, Evolutionary Biology
Subject categories Environmental Sciences, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology


One key concept in the evolution of new functions is the ability of enzymes to perform promiscuous side-reactions that serve as a source of novelty that may become beneficial under certain conditions. Here, we identify a mechanism where a bacteriophage-encoded enzyme introduces novelty by inducing expression of a promiscuous bacterial enzyme. By screening for bacteriophage DNA that rescued an auxotrophic Escherichia coli mutant carrying a deletion of the ilvA gene, we show that bacteriophage-encoded S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) hydrolases reduce SAM levels. Through this perturbation of bacterial metabolism, expression of the promiscuous bacterial enzyme MetB is increased, which in turn complements the absence of IlvA. These results demonstrate how foreign DNA can increase the metabolic capacity of bacteria, not only by transfer of bona fide new genes, but also by bringing cryptic bacterial functions to light via perturbations of cellular physiology.

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