The metabolism of the non-proteinogenic amino acid β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) in the cyanobacteriumSynechocystisPCC6803

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The neurotoxic amino acid β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) is produced by cyanobacteria under nitrogen starvation conditions and its metabolism is closely associated with cellular nitrogen control. Very little is known regarding the metabolism or biosynthesis of this amino acid in the producing organisms and current knowledge is limited to the spontaneous formation of carbamate adducts in the presence of aqueous carbon dioxide, the rapid removal of free cellular BMAA upon the addition of ammonia to nitrogen-starved cyanobacterial cultures, and the link between cellular nitrogen status and BMAA synthesis. Data presented here show that exogenous BMAA is readily metabolised by cyanobacteria during which, the primary amino group is rapidly transferred to other cellular amino acids. Furthermore, data suggest that BMAA is metabolised in cyanobacteria via a reversible transamination reaction. This study presents novel data on BMAA metabolism in cyanobacteria and provides the first proposed biosynthetic precursor to BMAA biosynthesis in cyanobacteria.

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