An electron transfer flavoprotein is essential for viability and its depletion causes a rod-to-sphere change in Burkholderia cenocepacia
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Essential gene studies often reveal novel essential functions for genes with dispensable homologues in other species. This is the case with the widespread family of electron transfer flavoproteins (ETFs), which are required for the metabolism of specific substrates or for symbiotic nitrogen fixation in some bacteria. Despite these non-essential functions high-throughput screens have identified ETFs as putatively essential in several species. In this study, we constructed a conditional expression mutant of one of the ETFs in Burkholderia cenocepacia, and demonstrated that its expression is essential for growth on both complex media and a variety of single-carbon sources. We further demonstrated that the two subunits EtfA and EtfB interact with each other, and that cells depleted of ETF are non-viable and lack redox potential. These cells also transition from the short rods characteristic of Burkholderia cenocepacia to small spheres independently of MreB. The putative membrane partner ETF dehydrogenase also induced the same rod-to-sphere change. We propose that the ETF of Burkholderia cenocepacia is a novel antibacterial target.
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