Plasmalogen Biosynthesis by Anaerobic Bacteria: Identification of a Two-Gene Operon Responsible for Plasmalogen Production in Clostridium perfringens


Plasmalogens are vinyl ether-containing lipids produced by mammals and bacteria. The aerobic biosynthetic pathway in eukaryotes and bacteria is known, but the anaerobic pathway has remained a mystery. Here, we describe a two-gene operon (plasmalogen synthase, pis) responsible for plasmalogen production in the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium perfringens. While aerobic plasmalogen biosynthesis involves an oxidative conversion of an ether to a vinyl ether, anaerobic plasmalogen biosynthesis uses the reductive conversion of an ester to an aldehyde equivalent. Heterologous expression of the C. perfringens pis operon in E. coli conferred the ability to produce plasmalogens. The pls operon is predicted to encode a multidomain complex similar to benzoyl-CoA reductase/hydroxylacyl-CoA dehydratase (BCR/HAD) enzymes. Versions of this operon can be found in a wide range of obligate and facultative anaerobic bacteria, including many human gut microbes.