Cellular thiols such as cysteine spontaneously and readily react with the respiratory intermediate fumarate, resulting in the formation of stable S-(2-succino)-adducts. Fumarate-mediated succination of thiols increases in certain tumors and in response to glucotoxicity associated with diabetes. Therefore, S-(2-succino)-adducts such as S-(2-succino)cysteine (2SC) are considered oncometabolites and biomarkers for human disease. No disposal routes for S-(2-succino)-compounds have been reported prior to this study. Here, we show that Bacillus subtilis metabolizes 2SC to cysteine using a pathway encoded by the yxe operon. The first step is N-acetylation of 2SC followed by an oxygenation that we propose results in the release of oxaloacetate and N-acetylcysteine, which is deacetylated to give cysteine. Knockouts of the genes predicted to mediate each step in the pathway lose the ability to grow on 2SC as the sulfur source and accumulate the expected upstream metabolite(s). We further show that N-acetylation of 2SC relieves toxicity. This is the first demonstration of a metabolic disposal route for any S-(2-suc-cino)-compound, paving the way toward the identification of corresponding pathways in other species.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Science Foundation Grant MCB-1153413 and by an endowment from the C. V. Griffin Sr. Foundation. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest with the contents of this article.