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Keywords:

  • Chlamydia evolution;
  • arginine decarboxylase;
  • inactivating mutation

Abstract

Chlamydia pneumoniae encodes a functional arginine decarboxylase (ArgDC), AaxB, that activates upon self-cleavage and converts l-arginine to agmatine. In contrast, most Chlamydia trachomatis serovars carry a missense or nonsense mutation in aaxB abrogating activity. The G115R missense mutation was not predicted to impact AaxB functionality, making it unclear whether AaxB variations in other Chlamydia species also result in enzyme inactivation. To address the impact of gene polymorphism on functionality, we investigated the activity and production of the Chlamydia AaxB variants. Because ArgDC plays a critical role in the Escherichia coli acid stress response, we studied the ability of these Chlamydia variants to complement an E. coli ArgDC mutant in an acid shock assay. Active AaxB was detected in four additional species: Chlamydia caviae, Chlamydia pecorum, Chlamydia psittaci, and Chlamydia muridarum. Of the C. trachomatis serovars, only E appears to encode active enzyme. To determine when functional enzyme is present during the chlamydial developmental cycle, we utilized an anti-AaxB antibody to detect both uncleaved and cleaved enzyme throughout infection. Uncleaved enzyme production peaked around 20 h postinfection, with optimal cleavage around 44 h. While the role ArgDC plays in Chlamydia survival or virulence is unclear, our data suggest a niche-specific function.