The end of the cob operon: Evidence that the last gene (cobT) catalyzes synthesis of the lower ligand of vitamin B12, dimethylbenzimidazole

P. Chen, M. Ailion, N. Weyand, J. Roth

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The cob operon of Salmonella typhimurium includes 20 genes devoted to the synthesis of adenosyl-cobalamin (coenzyme B12). Mutants with lesions in the promoter-distal end of the operon synthesize vitamin B12 only if provided with 5,6-dimethylbenzimidazole (DMB), the lower ligand of vitamin B12. In the hope of identifying a gene(s) involved in synthesis of DMB, the DNA base sequence of the end of the operon has been determined; this completes the sequence of the cob operon. The cobT gene is the last gene in the operon. Four CobII (DMB-) mutations mapping to different deletion intervals of the CobII region were sequenced; all affect the cobT open reading frame. Both the CobT protein of S. typhimurium and its Pseudomonas homolog have been shown in vitro to catalyze the transfer of ribose phosphate from nicotinate mononucleotide to DMB. This reaction does not contribute to DMB synthesis but rather is the first step in joining DMB to the corrin ring compound cobinamide. Thus, the phenotype of Salmonella cob T mutants conflicts with the reported activity of the affected enzyme, while Pseudomonas mutants have the expected phenotype. J. R. Trzebiatowski, G. A. O'Toole, and J. C. Escalante Semerena have suggested (J. Bacteriol. 176:3568-3575, 1994) that S. typhimurium possesses a second phosphoribosyltransferase activity (CobB) that requires a high concentration of DMB for its activity. We support that suggestion and, in addition, provide evidence that the CobT protein catalyzes both the synthesis of DMB and transfer of ribose phosphate. Some cobT mutants appear defective only in DMB synthesis, since they grow on low levels of DMB and retain their CobII phenotype in the presence of a cobb mutation. Other mutants including those with deletions, appear defective in transferase, since they require a high level of DMB (to activate CobB) and, in combination with a cobb mutation, they eliminate the ability to join DMB and cobinamide. Immediately downstream of the cob operon is a gene (called ORF in this study) of unknown function whose mutants have no detected phenotype. Just counterclockwise of ORF is an asparagine tRNA gene (probably asnU). Farther counterclockwise, a serine tRNA gene (serU or supD) is weakly cotransducible with the cobT gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1461-1469
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Immunology


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