Chlamydia trachomatis Scavenges Host Fatty Acids for Phospholipid Synthesis via an Acyl-Acyl Carrier Protein Synthetase [Microbiology]

July 20th, 2015 by Yao, J., Dodson, V. J., Frank, M. W., Rock, C. O.

The obligate intracellular parasite Chlamydia trachomatis has a reduced genome, but relies on de novo fatty acid and phospholipid biosynthesis to produce its membrane phospholipids. Lipidomic analyses showed that 8% of the phospholipid molecular species synthesized by C. trachomatis contained oleic acid, an abundant host fatty acid that cannot be made by the bacterium. Mass tracing experiments showed that isotopically-labelled palmitic, myristic and lauric acids added to the medium were incorporated into C. trachomatis-derived phospholipid molecular species. HeLa cells did not elongate lauric acid, but infected HeLa cell cultures elongated laurate to myristate and palmitate. The elongated fatty acids were incorporated exclusively into C. trachomatis-produced phospholipid molecular species. C. trachomatis has adjacent genes encoding the separate domains of the bifunctional acyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) synthetase/2-acylglycerolphosphoethanolamine acyltransferase gene (aas) of Escherichia coli. The CT775 gene encodes an acyltransferase (LpaT) that selectively transfers fatty acids from acyl-ACP to the 1-position of 2-acyl-glycerolphospholipids. The CT776 gene encodes an acyl-ACP synthetase (AasC) with a substrate preference for palmitic compared to oleic acid in vitro. Exogenous fatty acids were elongated and incorporated into phospholipids by E. coli expressing AasC illustrating its function as an acyl-ACP synthetase in vivo. These data point to an acyl-ACP synthetase (AasC) dependent pathway in C. trachomatis that selectively scavenges host saturated fatty acids to be used for the de novo synthesis of its membrane constituents.