Unlocking the mystery of lysine toxicity on Microcystis aeruginosa

Wonjae Kim, Minkyung Kim, Woojun Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Lysine toxicity on certain groups of bacterial cells has been recognized for many years, but the detailed molecular mechanisms that drive this phenomenon have not been elucidated. Many cyanobacteria including Microcystis aeruginosa cannot efficiently export and degrade lysine, although they have evolved to maintain a single copy of the lysine uptake system through which arginine or ornithine can also be transported into the cytoplasm. Autoradiographic analysis using 14C-L-lysine confirmed that lysine was competitively uptaken into cells with arginine or ornithine, which explained the arginine or ornithine-mediated alleviation of lysine toxicity in M. aeruginosa. A relatively non-specific MurE amino acid ligase could incorporate L-lysine into the 3rd position of UDP-N-acetylmuramyl-tripeptide by replacing meso-diaminopimelic acid during the stepwise addition of amino acids on peptidoglycan (PG) biosynthesis. However, further transpeptidation was blocked because lysine substitution at the pentapeptide of the cell wall inhibited the activity of transpeptidases. The leaky PG structure caused irreversible damage to the photosynthetic system and membrane integrity. Collectively, our results suggest that a lysine-mediated coarse-grained PG network and the absence of concrete septal PG lead to the death of slow-growing cyanobacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130932
JournalJournal of hazardous materials
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Apr 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the grants from the National Institute of Biological Resources ( NIBR202221201 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Cell division
  • Cyanobacterial peptidoglycan
  • Freshwater bacteria
  • Lysine uptake transporter
  • meso-diaminopimelate
  • Penicillin-binding protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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