Metabolomic approaches for enzyme function and pathway discovery in bacteria


Most of the chemical diversity present in the natural world derives from the incredible ability of enzymes to act on and control metabolism. Yet, thousands of enzymes have no defined function. The capacity to probe, investigate and assign previously unknown enzyme function with speed and confidence is therefore highly sought-after. Metabolomics is becoming a dominant player in the field of functional genomics and, when coupled with genetic tools and protein biochemistry techniques, has enabled unbiased, de novo annotation of orphan enzymes both in vitro and ex vivo.
In this chapter, we describe two distinct experimental and analytical metabolomic methodologies used to reveal enzyme function. Activity-based metabolomic profiling
(ABMP) is an in vitro technique that enables tracking of enzyme-induced changes in a complex metabolite extract. Global metabolomic profiling permits the comparison
of extracted cellular metabolome of groups of samples (e.g., wild-type versus mutant bacteria). The methods we describe present the advantage of generating cell extracts containing a broad range of metabolites in their native states, which can then be used to identify substrates for orphan enzymes. This chapter aims to provide a guide for the use of these metabolomic techniques by scientists interested in identifying bona fide physiological substrates of orphan enzymes and the metabolic pathways they belong to.

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