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    Campylobacter jejuni is a microaerophilic, asaccharolytic bacterium. The identity of the carbon and energy sources used by C. jejuni in vivo is unknown, but the genome sequence of strain NCTC11168 indicates the presence of genes for catabolism of a limited range of amino acids, including serine. Specific omission of L-serine from a defined medium containing a mixture of amino acids led to a dramatic decrease in cell yields. As C. jejuni does not have a biosynthetic serine requirement, this supports earlier suggestions that L-serine is a preferentially catabolized amino acid. Serine transport was found to be mediated by at least two systems in strain 11168; a high-capacity, low-affinity L-serine-specific system encoded by Cj1625c (sdaC) and a higher-affinity L-serine/L-threonine system responsible for residual L-serine transport in an sdaC mutant. Catabolism of L-serine to pyruvate and ammonia is carried out by SdaA (encoded by Cj1624c), which was overexpressed, purified, and shown to be an oxygen-labile iron-sulfur enzyme. L-Serine dehydratase activity in an sdaA mutant was reduced 10-fold compared to that in the wild type, but the residual activity (due to the anabolic L-threonine dehydratase) could not support either growth on or utilization of L-serine in defined media. However, although sdaA mutants showed no obvious growth defect in complex media, they completely failed to colonize 3-week-old chickens as assayed both by cloacal swabs taken over a 6-week period and by cecal colony counts postmortem. In contrast, the isogenic parent strain colonized chickens to high levels within 1 week of inoculation. The results show that an active SdaA is essential for colonization of the avian gut by C. jejuni and imply that catabolism of L-serine is crucially important for the growth of this bacterium in vivo.


    Jyoti Velayudhan, Michael A Jones, Paul A Barrow, David J Kelly. L-serine catabolism via an oxygen-labile L-serine dehydratase is essential for colonization of the avian gut by Campylobacter jejuni. Infection and immunity. 2004 Jan;72(1):260-8

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    PMID: 14688104

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