Indexed on: 06 Sep '18Published on: 06 Sep '18Published in: mBio
The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs [Ile, Leu, and Val]) represent important nutrients in bacterial physiology, with roles that range from supporting protein synthesis to signaling and fine-tuning the adaptation to amino acid starvation. In some pathogenic bacteria, the adaptation to amino acid starvation includes induction of virulence gene expression: thus, BCAAs support not only proliferation during infection, but also the evasion of host defenses. A body of research has accumulated over the years to describe the multifaceted physiological roles of BCAAs and the mechanisms bacteria use to maintain their intracellular levels. More recent studies have focused on understanding how fluctuations in their intracellular levels impact global regulatory pathways that coordinate the adaptation to nutrient limitation, especially in pathogenic bacteria. In this minireview, we discuss how these studies have refined the individual roles of BCAAs, shed light on how BCAA auxotrophy might promote higher sensitivity to exogenous BCAA levels, and revealed pathogen-specific responses to BCAA deprivation. These advancements improve our understanding of how bacteria meet their nutritional requirements for growth while simultaneously remaining responsive to changes in environmental nutrient availability to promote their survival in a range of environments. Copyright © 2018 Kaiser and Heinrichs.