Cyanogenic glucosides are among the most widespread defense chemicals of plants. Upon plant tissue disruption, these glucosides are hydrolyzed to a reactive hydroxynitrile that releases toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Yet many mite and lepidopteran species can thrive on plants defended by cyanogenic glucosides. The nature of the enzyme known to detoxify HCN to β-cyanoalanine in arthropods has remained enigmatic. Here we identify this enzyme by transcriptome analysis and functional expression. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the gene is a member of the cysteine synthase family horizontally transferred from bacteria to phytophagous mites and Lepidoptera. The recombinant mite enzyme had both β-cyanoalanine synthase and cysteine synthase activity but enzyme kinetics showed that cyanide detoxification activity was strongly favored. Our results therefore suggest that an ancient horizontal transfer of a gene originally involved in sulfur amino acid biosynthesis in bacteria was co-opted by herbivorous arthropods to detoxify plant produced cyanide.
- Joerg Bohlmann, University of British Columbia, Canada
© 2014, Wybouw et al.
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In the first meiotic cell division, proper segregation of chromosomes in most organisms depends on chiasmata, exchanges of continuity between homologous chromosomes that originate from the repair of programmed double-strand breaks (DSBs) catalyzed by the Spo11 endonuclease. Since DSBs can lead to irreparable damage in germ cells, while chromosomes lacking DSBs also lack chiasmata, the number of DSBs must be carefully regulated to be neither too high nor too low. Here, we show that in Caenorhabditis elegans, meiotic DSB levels are controlled by the phosphoregulation of DSB-1, a homolog of the yeast Spo11 cofactor Rec114, by the opposing activities of PP4PPH-4.1 phosphatase and ATRATL-1 kinase. Increased DSB-1 phosphorylation in pph-4.1 mutants correlates with reduction in DSB formation, while prevention of DSB-1 phosphorylation drastically increases the number of meiotic DSBs both in pph-4.1 mutants as well as in the wild type background. C. elegans and its close relatives also possess a diverged paralog of DSB-1, called DSB-2, and loss of dsb-2 is known to reduce DSB formation in oocytes with increasing age. We show that the proportion of the phosphorylated, and thus inactivated, form of DSB-1 increases with age and upon loss of DSB-2, while non-phosphorylatable DSB-1 rescues the age-dependent decrease in DSBs in dsb-2 mutants. These results suggest that DSB-2 evolved in part to compensate for the inactivation of DSB-1 through phosphorylation, to maintain levels of DSBs in older animals. Our work shows that PP4PPH-4.1, ATRATL-1, and DSB-2 act in concert with DSB-1 to promote optimal DSB levels throughout the reproductive lifespan.
Antibiotic resistance in the important opportunistic human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae is on the rise. This is particularly problematic in the case of the β-lactam antibiotic amoxicillin, which is the first-line therapy. It is therefore crucial to uncover targets that would kill or resensitize amoxicillin-resistant pneumococci. To do so, we developed a genome-wide, single-cell based, gene silencing screen using CRISPR interference called sCRilecs-seq (subsets of CRISPR interference libraries extracted by fluorescence activated cell sorting coupled to next generation sequencing). Since amoxicillin affects growth and division, sCRilecs-seq was used to identify targets that are responsible for maintaining proper cell size. Our screen revealed that downregulation of the mevalonate pathway leads to extensive cell elongation. Further investigation into this phenotype indicates that it is caused by a reduced availability of cell wall precursors at the site of cell wall synthesis due to a limitation in the production of undecaprenyl phosphate (Und-P), the lipid carrier that is responsible for transporting these precursors across the cell membrane. The data suggest that, whereas peptidoglycan synthesis continues even with reduced Und-P levels, cell constriction is specifically halted. We successfully exploited this knowledge to create a combination treatment strategy where the FDA-approved drug clomiphene, an inhibitor of Und-P synthesis, is paired up with amoxicillin. Our results show that clomiphene potentiates the antimicrobial activity of amoxicillin and that combination therapy resensitizes amoxicillin-resistant S. pneumoniae. These findings could provide a starting point to develop a solution for the increasing amount of hard-to-treat amoxicillin-resistant pneumococcal infections.