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The biosynthetic pathway of ubiquinone contributes to pathogenicity of Francisella Running title: Ubiquinone and Francisella pathogenicity
Abstract : Francisella tularensis is the causative agent of tularemia. Because of its extreme infectivity and high mortality rate, this pathogen was classified as a biothreat agent. Francisella spp are strict aerobe and ubiquinone (UQ) has been previously identified in these bacteria. While the UQ biosynthetic pathways were extensively studied in Escherichia coli allowing the identification of fifteen Ubi-proteins to date, little is known about Francisella spp. In this study, and using Francisella novicida as a surrogate organism, we first identified UQ 8 as the major quinone found in the membranes of this bacterium. Then, we characterized the UQ biosynthetic pathway in F. novicida using a combination of bioinformatics, genetics and biochemical approaches. Our analysis disclosed the presence in Francisella of ten putative Ubi-proteins and we confirmed eight of them by heterologous complementation in E. coli. The UQ biosynthetic pathways from F. novicida and E. coli share a similar pattern. Ubiquinone and Francisella pathogenicity 2 However, differences were highlighted: the decarboxylase remains unidentified in Francisella spp and homologs of the Ubi-proteins involved in the O 2-independent UQ pathway are not present. This is in agreement with the strictly aerobic niche of this bacterium. Then, via two approaches, i.e. the use of an inhibitor (3-amino-4-hydroxybenzoic acid) and a transposon mutant, which both strongly impair the synthesis of UQ, we demonstrated that UQ is essential for the growth of F. novicida in a respiratory medium and contributes to its pathogenicity in Galleria mellonella used as an alternative animal model. Importance Francisella tularensis is the causative bacterium of tularemia and is classified as a biothreat agent. Using multidisciplinary approaches, we investigated the ubiquinone (UQ) biosynthetic pathway that operates in F. novicida used as a surrogate. We showed that UQ 8 is the major quinone identified in the membranes of Francisella novicida. We identified a new competitive inhibitor, which strongly decreased the biosynthesis of UQ. Our demonstration of the crucial role of UQ for the respiratory metabolism of F. novicida and for the involving in its pathogenicity in the Galleria mellonella model should stimulate the search for selective inhibitors of bacterial UQ biosynthesis.