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Bacillithiol is an antioxidant thiol produced in Bacilli


Glutathione is a nearly ubiquitous, low-molecular-mass thiol and antioxidant, but it is conspicuously absent from most Gram-positive bacteria. We identify here the structure of bacillithiol, a newly described and abundant thiol produced by Bacillus species, Staphylococcus aureus and Deinococcus radiodurans. Bacillithiol is the α-anomeric glycoside of L-cysteinyl-D-glucosamine with L-malic acid and most probably functions as an antioxidant. Bacillithiol, like the structurally similar mycothiol, may serve as a substitute for glutathione.

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Figure 1: The hydrolysis of 8 defines its composition.
Figure 2: NMR studies confirm the composition of 8, establish linkage in 8 and define the structure of bacillithiol.


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We thank H. Upton for technical assistance. This work was supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation to R.C.F. (MCB0235705) and J.D.H. (MCB0640616); from the US National Institutes of Health to R.C.F. (AI49174 and AI072133), to M.R. (GM061223-05A) and to A.C. (GM35394); and from The University of East Anglia to V.K.J.

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Authors and Affiliations



M.R. and G.L.N. prepared bacterial cultures for isolation of 8 and the survey of thiol distribution. G.L.N. and T.B. purified 8; G.L.N. conducted the hydrolysis of 8 and the HPLC and enzymatic analyses. J.J.L. and G.L.N. conducted the NMR analysis of 8, 11 and 12. V.K.J. and C.J.H. synthesized proposed hydrolysis intermediates 11 and 12. G.L.N., M.R., J.J.L., C.J.H., A.C., J.D.H. and R.C.F. developed the project and interpreted the results. All authors contributed to the writing.

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Correspondence to Robert C Fahey.

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G.L.N., M.R., J.J.L. and R.C.F. will attempt to patent bacillithiol, its biosynthetic precursors, and its biosynthetic and metabolic proteins.

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Supplementary Figures 1–3, Supplementary Tables 1–4 and Supplementary Methods (PDF 2812 kb)

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Newton, G., Rawat, M., La Clair, J. et al. Bacillithiol is an antioxidant thiol produced in Bacilli. Nat Chem Biol 5, 625–627 (2009).

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