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Sterol Synthesis in Diverse Bacteria



Sterol Synthesis in Diverse Bacteria



Frontiers in Microbiology 7: 990



Sterols are essential components of eukaryotic cells whose biosynthesis and function has been studied extensively. Sterols are also recognized as the diagenetic precursors of steranes preserved in sedimentary rocks where they can function as geological proxies for eukaryotic organisms and/or aerobic metabolisms and environments. However, production of these lipids is not restricted to the eukaryotic domain as a few bacterial species also synthesize sterols. Phylogenomic studies have identified genes encoding homologs of sterol biosynthesis proteins in the genomes of several additional species, indicating that sterol production may be more widespread in the bacterial domain than previously thought. Although the occurrence of sterol synthesis genes in a genome indicates the potential for sterol production, it provides neither conclusive evidence of sterol synthesis nor information about the composition and abundance of basic and modified sterols that are actually being produced. Here, we coupled bioinformatics with lipid analyses to investigate the scope of bacterial sterol production. We identified oxidosqualene cyclase (Osc), which catalyzes the initial cyclization of oxidosqualene to the basic sterol structure, in 34 bacterial genomes from five phyla (Bacteroidetes, Cyanobacteria, Planctomycetes, Proteobacteria, and Verrucomicrobia) and in 176 metagenomes. Our data indicate that bacterial sterol synthesis likely occurs in diverse organisms and environments and also provides evidence that there are as yet uncultured groups of bacterial sterol producers. Phylogenetic analysis of bacterial and eukaryotic Osc sequences confirmed a complex evolutionary history of sterol synthesis in this domain. Finally, we characterized the lipids produced by Osc-containing bacteria and found that we could generally predict the ability to synthesize sterols. However, predicting the final modified sterol based on our current knowledge of sterol synthesis was difficult. Some bacteria produced demethylated and saturated sterol products even though they lacked homologs of the eukaryotic proteins required for these modifications emphasizing that several aspects of bacterial sterol synthesis are still completely unknown.

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Accession: 058905074

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PMID: 27446030

DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00990


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