Discovery of a bacterial 5-methylcytosine deaminase. Academic Article uri icon


  • 5-Methylcytosine is found in all domains of life, but the bacterial cytosine deaminase from Escherichia coli (CodA) will not accept 5-methylcytosine as a substrate. Since significant amounts of 5-methylcytosine are produced in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, this compound must eventually be catabolized and the fragments recycled by enzymes that have yet to be identified. We therefore initiated a comprehensive phylogenetic screen for enzymes that may be capable of deaminating 5-methylcytosine to thymine. From a systematic analysis of sequence homologues of CodA from thousands of bacterial species, we identified putative cytosine deaminases where a "discriminating" residue in the active site, corresponding to Asp-314 in CodA from E. coli, was no longer conserved. Representative examples from Klebsiella pneumoniae (locus tag: Kpn00632), Rhodobacter sphaeroides (locus tag: Rsp0341), and Corynebacterium glutamicum (locus tag: NCgl0075) were demonstrated to efficiently deaminate 5-methylcytosine to thymine with values of kcat/Km of 1.4 10(5), 2.9 10(4), and 1.1 10(3) M(-1) s(-1), respectively. These three enzymes also catalyze the deamination of 5-fluorocytosine to 5-fluorouracil with values of kcat/Km of 1.2 10(5), 6.8 10(4), and 2.0 10(2) M(-1) s(-1), respectively. The three-dimensional structure of Kpn00632 was determined by X-ray diffraction methods with 5-methylcytosine (PDB id: 4R85 ), 5-fluorocytosine (PDB id: 4R88 ), and phosphonocytosine (PDB id: 4R7W ) bound in the active site. When thymine auxotrophs of E. coli express these enzymes, they are capable of growth in media lacking thymine when supplemented with 5-methylcytosine. Expression of these enzymes in E. coli is toxic in the presence of 5-fluorocytosine, due to the efficient transformation to 5-fluorouracil.

published proceedings

  • Biochemistry

author list (cited authors)

  • Hitchcock, D. S., Fedorov, A. A., Fedorov, E. V., Almo, S. C., & Raushel, F. M.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Hitchcock, Daniel S||Fedorov, Alexander A||Fedorov, Elena V||Almo, Steven C||Raushel, Frank M

publication date

  • November 2014