The Mycobacterium tuberculosis membrane protein Rv0899 confers adaptation of the bacterium to acidic environments. Due to strong sequence homology of its C-terminus to bacterial OmpA-like domains, Rv0899 has been proposed to constitute an outer membrane porin of M. tuberculosis. However, OmpA-like domains are widespread in a wide variety of bacterial proteins with different functions. Furthermore, the three-dimensional structure of Rv0899 does not contain a transmembrane β-barrel, and recent evidence demonstrates that it does not have porin activity. Instead, the rv0899 gene is part of an operon (rv0899-rv0901) that is required for fast ammonia secretion, pH neutralization, and growth of M. tuberculosis in acidic environments. The mechanism whereby these functions are accomplished is not known. To gain further functional insights, a targeted search of the genomic databases was performed for proteins with sequence similarity beyond the OmpA-like C-terminus. The results presented here, show that Rv0899-like proteins are widespread in bacteria with functions in nitrogen metabolism, adaptation to nutrient poor environments, and/or establishing symbiosis with the host organism, and appear to form a protein family. These findings suggest that M. tuberculosis Rv0899 may also assist similar processes and lend further support to its role in ammonia secretion and M. tuberculosis adaptation to the host environment.
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