The distribution of acetohydroxyacid synthase in soil bacteria
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Most bacteria possess the enzyme acetohydroxyacid synthase, which is used to produce branched-chain amino acids. Enteric bacteria contain several isozymes suited to different conditions, but the distribution of acetohydroxyacid synthase in soil bacteria is largely unknown. Growth experiments confirmed that Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium, and Enterobacter aerogenes contain isozymes of acetohydroxyacid synthase, allowing the bacteria to grow in the presence of valine (which causes feedback inhibition of AHAS I) or the sulfonylurea herbicide triasulfuron (which inhibits AHAS II) although a slight lag phase was observed in growth in the latter case. Several common soil isolates were inhibited by triasulfuron, but Pseudomonas fluorescens and Rhodococcus erythropolis were not inhibited by any combination of triasulfuron and valine. The extent of sulfonylurea-sensitive acetohydroxyacid synthase in soil was revealed when 21 out of 27 isolated bacteria in pure culture were inhibited by triasulfuron, the addition of isoleucine and/or valine reversing the effect in 19 cases. Primers were designed to target the genes encoding the large subunits (ilvB, ilvG and ilvI) of acetohydroxyacid synthase from available sequence data and a ∼355 bp fragment in Bacillus subtilis, Arthrobacter globiformis, E. coli and S. enterica was subsequently amplified. The primers were used to create a small clone library of sequences from an agricultural soil. Phylogenetic analysis revealed significant sequence variation, but all 19 amino acid sequences were most closely related to published large subunit acetohydroxyacid synthase amino acid sequences within several phyla including the Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria. The results suggested the majority of soil microorganisms contain only one functional acetohydroxyacid synthase enzyme sensitive to sulfonylurea herbicides.