Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



Yue Y, Puniya BL, Helikar T, Girardo B, Hinrichs SH and Larson MA (2022) Arginine Catabolism and Polyamine Biosynthesis Pathway Disparities Within Francisella tularensis Subpopulations. Front. Microbiol. 13:890856.

doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.890856


Copyright © 2022 Yue, Puniya, Helikar, Girardo, Hinrichs and Larson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).


Francisella tularensis is a highly infectious zoonotic pathogen with as few as 10 organisms causing tularemia, a disease that is fatal if untreated. Although F. tularensis subspecies tularensis (type A) and subspecies holarctica (type B) share over 99.5% average nucleotide identity, notable differences exist in genomic organization and pathogenicity. The type A clade has been further divided into subtypes A.I and A.II, with A.I strains being recognized as some of the most virulent bacterial pathogens known. In this study, we report on major disparities that exist between the F. tularensis subpopulations in arginine catabolism and subsequent polyamine biosynthesis. The genes involved in these pathways include the speHEA and aguAB operons, along with metK. In the hypervirulent F. tularensis A.I clade, such as the A.I prototype strain SCHU S4, these genes were found to be intact and highly transcribed. In contrast, both subtype A.II and type B strains have a truncated speA gene, while the type B clade also has a disrupted aguA and truncated aguB. Ablation of the chromosomal speE gene that encodes a spermidine synthase reduced subtype A.I SCHU S4 growth rate, whereas the growth rate of type B LVS was enhanced. These results demonstrate that spermine synthase SpeE promotes faster replication in the F. tularensis A.I clade, whereas type B strains do not rely on this enzyme for in vitro fitness. Our ongoing studies on amino acid and polyamine flux within hypervirulent A.I strains should provide a better understanding of the factors that contribute to F. tularensis pathogenicity.