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Sulfonolipids (SoLs) are a unique class of sphingolipids featuring a sulfonate group compared to other sphingolipids. However, the biological functions and biosynthesis of SoLs in human microbiota have been poorly understood. Here, we report the discovery and isolation of SoLs from a human opportunistic pathogen Chryseobacterium gleum DSM16776. We show for the first time the pro-inflammatory activity of SoLs with mice primary macrophages. Furthermore, we used both in vivo heterologous expression and in vitro biochemical reconstitution to characterize two enzymes, cysteate synthase and cysteate fatty acyltransferase, that are specifically involved in the biosynthesis of SoLs rather than other sphingolipids. Based on these two SoL-specific enzymes, our bioinformatics analysis showed a wider distribution of SoL biosynthetic genes in microbes that had not been reported as SoL producers. We selected four of these strains and verified their cysteate synthase and cysteate fatty acyltransferase activities in SoL biosynthesis. Considering this wider distribution of SoL-specific biosynthetic enzymes in the context of SoLs' activity in mediating inflammation, a common and fundamental biological process, it may suggest a more comprehensive function of SoLs at play.


Lukuan Hou, Hai-Yan Tian, Li Wang, Zachary E Ferris, Junfeng Wang, Mingwei Cai, Ethan A Older, Manikanda Raja Keerthi Raja, Dan Xue, Wanyang Sun, Prakash Nagarkatti, Mitzi Nagarkatti, Hexin Chen, Daping Fan, Xiaoyu Tang, Jie Li. Identification and Biosynthesis of Pro-Inflammatory Sulfonolipids from an Opportunistic Pathogen Chryseobacterium gleum. ACS chemical biology. 2022 May 20;17(5):1197-1206

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PMID: 35476918

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