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Survival of mycobacteria depends on proteasome-mediated amino acid recycling under nutrient limitation.

Elharar Y., Roth Z., Hermelin I., Moon A., Peretz G., Shenkerman Y., Vishkautzan M., Khalaila I., Gur E.

Intracellular protein degradation is an essential process in all life domains. While in all eukaryotes regulated protein degradation involves ubiquitin tagging and the 26S-proteasome, bacterial prokaryotic ubiquitin-like protein (Pup) tagging and proteasomes are conserved only in species belonging to the phyla Actinobacteria and Nitrospira. In Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the Pup-proteasome system (PPS) is important for virulence, yet its physiological role in non-pathogenic species has remained an enigma. We now report, using Mycobacterium smegmatis as a model organism, that the PPS is essential for survival under starvation. Upon nitrogen limitation, PPS activity is induced, leading to accelerated tagging and degradation of many cytoplasmic proteins. We suggest a model in which the PPS functions to recycle amino acids under nitrogen starvation, thereby enabling the cell to maintain basal metabolic activities. We also find that the PPS auto-regulates its own activity via pupylation and degradation of its components in a manner that promotes the oscillatory expression of PPS components. As such, the destructive activity of the PPS is carefully balanced to maintain cellular functions during starvation.

EMBO J. 33:1802-1814(2014) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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