Phthiocerol dimycocerosates (DIM) and phenolglycolipids (PGL) are functionally important surface-exposed lipids of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Their biosynthesis involves the products of several genes clustered in a 70-kb region of the M. tuberculosis chromosome. Among these products is PpsD, one of the modular type I polyketide synthases responsible for the synthesis of the lipid core common to DIM and PGL. Bioinformatic analyses have suggested that this protein lacks a functional enoyl reductase activity domain required for the synthesis of these lipids. We have identified a gene, Rv2953, that putatively encodes an enoyl reductase. Mutation in Rv2953 prevents conventional DIM formation and leads to the accumulation of a novel DIM-like product. This product is unsaturated between C-4 and C-5 of phthiocerol. Consistently, complementation of the mutant with a functional pks15/1 gene from Mycobacterium bovis BCG resulted in the accumulation of an unsaturated PGL-like substance. When an intact Rv2953 gene was reintroduced into the mutant strain, the phenotype reverted to the wild type. These findings indicate that Rv2953 encodes a trans-acting enoyl reductase that acts with PpsD in phthiocerol and phenolphthiocerol biosynthesis
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