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Folic acid and the methylation of homocysteine by Bacillus subtilis

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1. Cell-free extracts of Bacillus subtilis synthesize methionine from serine and homocysteine without added folate. The endogenous folate may be replaced by tetrahydropteroyltriglutamate or an extract of heated Escherichia coli for the overall C1 transfer, but tetrahydropteroylmonoglutamate is relatively inactive. 2. Extracts of B. subtilis contain serine transhydroxymethylase and 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which are non-specific with respect to the glutamate content of the folate substrates. Methyl transfer to homocysteine requires a polyglutamate folate as methyl donor. These properties are not affected by growth of the organism with added vitamin B12. 3. The synthesis of methionine from 5-methyltetrahydropteroyltriglutamate and homocysteine has the characteristics of the cobalamin-independent reaction of E. coli. No evidence for a cobalamin-dependent transmethylation was obtained. 4. S-Adenosylmethionine was not a significant precursor of the methyl group of methionine with cell-free extracts, neither was S-adenosylmethionine generated by methylation of S-adenosylhomocysteine by 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. 5. A procedure for the isolation and analysis of folic acid derivatives from natural sources is described. 6. The folates isolated from lysozyme extracts of B. subtilis are sensitive to folic acid conjugase. One has been identified as 5-formyltetrahydropteroyltriglutamate; the other is possibly a diglutamate folate. 7. A sequence is proposed for methionine biosynthesis in B. subtilis in which methyl groups are generated from serine and transferred to homocysteine by means of a cobalamin-independent pathway mediated by conjugated folate coenzymes.

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