Lipoic acid is a disulfide-containing cofactor required for the reactions catalyzed by alpha-ketoacid dehydrogenase enzyme complexes. We report the chemical synthesis and biological properties of lipoic acid analogs in which one or both sulfur atoms were replaced by selenium. Replacement of either the C-6 or the C-8 sulfur atom with selenium results in lipoic acid derivatives with apparently unaltered biological properties. However, simultaneous replacement of both sulfur atoms gave an analog (selenolipoic acid) that inhibited growth of wild-type Escherichia coli when present in minimal glucose medium at 50 ng/ml. This growth inhibition was reversed by the addition of either excess lipoic acid or acetate plus succinate. Labeling experiments with [75Se]selenolipoic acid showed that this compound was efficiently incorporated into the alpha-ketoacid dehydrogenase complexes of growing cells. Spontaneously arising selenolipoic acid-resistant (slr) mutants were isolated. Two of these isolates resistant to high levels of selenolipoic acid were studied in detail. The slr-1 mutation, which was mapped to min 99.6 of the E. coli chromosome, increased the lipoate requirement of lipA strains by 4-fold and appeared to define a gene encoding a lipoate-protein ligase. The slr-7 mutation, which was mapped to min 15.25 of the chromosome, completely suppressed the lipoate requirement of lipA strains and defined a gene of unknown function in the synthesis of lipoic acid
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