Hidden resources in the Escherichia coli genome restore PLP synthesis and robust growth after deletion of the essential gene pdxB
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Hidden resources in the Escherichia coli genome restore PLP synthesis and robust growth after deletion of the essential gene pdxB

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    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    The evolution of new metabolic pathways has been a driver of diversification from the last universal common ancestor 3.8 billion y ago to the present. Bioinformatic evidence suggests that many pathways were assembled by recruiting promiscuous enzymes to serve new functions. However, the processes by which new pathways have emerged are lost in time. We have little information about the environmental conditions that fostered emergence of new pathways, the genome context in which new pathways emerged, and the types of mutations that elevated flux through inefficient new pathways. Experimental laboratory evolution has allowed us to evolve a new pathway and identify mechanisms by which mutations increase fitness when an inefficient new pathway becomes important for survival.PdxB (erythronate 4-phosphate dehydrogenase) is expected to be required for synthesis of the essential cofactor pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP) in Escherichia coli. Surprisingly, incubation of the ∆pdxB strain in medium containing glucose as a sole carbon source for 10 d resulted in visible turbidity, suggesting that PLP is being produced by some alternative pathway. Continued evolution of parallel lineages for 110 to 150 generations produced several strains that grow robustly in glucose. We identified a 4-step bypass pathway patched together from promiscuous enzymes that restores PLP synthesis in strain JK1. None of the mutations in JK1 occurs in a gene encoding an enzyme in the new pathway. Two mutations indirectly enhance the ability of SerA (3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase) to perform a new function in the bypass pathway. Another disrupts a gene encoding a PLP phosphatase, thus preserving PLP levels. These results demonstrate that a functional pathway can be patched together from promiscuous enzymes in the proteome, even without mutations in the genes encoding those enzymes.
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    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(48)
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