International Microbiology, Vol 20, No 3 (2017)

Divergent functional roles of D-amino acids secreted by Vibrio cholerae

Felipe Cava

Abstract


The L-forms of amino acids are used in all kingdoms of life to synthesize proteins. However, the bacterium Vibrio
cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, produces D-amino acids which are released to the environment at millimolar concentrations.
We baptized these D-amino acids as non-canonical D-amino acids (NCDAAs) since they are different from those (i.e.
D-alanine and D-glutamate) normally present in the bacterial cell wall. In V. cholerae, production of NCDAAs relies on the BsrV
enzyme, a periplasmic broad spectrum racemase. BsrV multispecific activity, produces of a wide range of distinct D-amino acids.
Using a combination of genetics and molecular physiology approaches we have demonstrated that NCDAAs target different cellular
processes which may function as part of a cooperative strategy in vibrio communities to protect non-producing members from
competing bacteria. Because NCDAA production is widespread in bacteria, we anticipate that NCDAAs are relevant modulators
of microbial subpopulations in diverse ecosystems.

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