Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Sequence determination of a region downstream from the vanXYC gene in Enterococcus gallinarum BM4174 revealed an open reading frame, designated vanT, that encodes a 698-amino-acid polypeptide with an amino-terminal domain containing 10 predicted transmembrane segments. The protein contained a highly conserved pyridoxal phosphate attachment site in the C-terminal domain, typical of alanine racemases. The protein was overexpressed in Escherichia coli, and serine racemase activity was detected in the membrane but not in the cytoplasmic fraction after centrifugation of sonicated cells, whereas alanine racemase activity was located almost exclusively in the cytoplasm. When the protein was overexpressed as a polypeptide lacking the predicted transmembrane domain, serine racemase activity was detected in the cytoplasm. The serine racemase activity was partially (64%) inhibited by d-cycloserine, whereas host alanine racemase activity was almost totally inhibited (97%). Serine racemase activity was also detected in membrane preparations of constitutively vancomycin-resistant E. gallinarum BM4174 but not in BM4175, in which insertional inactivation of the vanC-1d-Ala:d-Ser ligase gene probably had a polar effect on expression of the vanXYC and vanT genes. Comparative modelling of the deduced C-terminal domain was based on the alignment of VanT with the Alr alanine racemase from Bacillus stearothermophilus. The model revealed that almost all critical amino acids in the active site of Alr were conserved in VanT, indicating that the C-terminal domain of VanT is likely to adopt a three-dimensional structure similar to that of Alr and that the protein could exist as a dimer. These results indicate that the source of d-serine for peptidoglycan synthesis in vancomycin-resistant enterococci expressing the VanC phenotype involves racemization of l- to d-serine by a membrane-bound serine racemase.
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