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Arabidopsis Contains A Large Superfamily Of Acyl-Activating Enzymes. Phylogenetic And Biochemical Analysis Reveals A New Class Of Acyl-Coenzyme A Synthetases

Jay M. Shockey, Martin S. Fulda, John Browse

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Abstract Acyl-activating enzymes are a diverse group of proteins that catalyze the activation of many different carboxylic acids, primarily through the formation of a thioester bond. This group of enzymes is found in all living organisms and includes the acyl-coenzyme A synthetases, 4-coumarate:coenzyme A ligases, luciferases, and non-ribosomal peptide synthetases. The members of this superfamily share little overall sequence identity, but do contain a 12-amino acid motif common to all enzymes that activate their acid substrates using ATP via an enzyme-bound adenylate intermediate. Arabidopsis possesses an acyl-activating enzyme superfamily containing 63 different genes. In addition to the genes that had been characterized previously, 14 new cDNA clones were isolated as part of this work. The protein sequences were compared phylogenetically and grouped into seven distinct categories. At least four of these categories are plant specific. The tissue-specific expression profiles of some of the genes of unknown function were analyzed and shown to be complex, with a high degree of overlap. Most of the plant-specific genes represent uncharacterized aspects of carboxylic acid metabolism. One such group contains members whose enzymes activate short- and medium-chain fatty acids. Altogether, the results presented here describe the largest acyl-activating enzyme family present in any organism thus far studied at the genomic level and clearly indicate that carboxylic acid activation metabolism in plants is much more complex than previously thought.