Mycobacterium lepromatosis MLPM_5000 is a potential heme chaperone protein HemW and mis-annotation of its orthologues in mycobacteria

Mukul Sharma, Yash Gupta, Purna Dwivedi, Prakasha Kempaiah, Pushpendra Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The genome of a newly identified leprosy causing bacillus Mycobacterium lepromatosis was sequenced in 2015 wherein a gene MLPM_5000 was detected whose corresponding sequences are missing in its close relative Mycobacterium leprae, the well-known causal agent of leprosy. Thus MLPM_5000 is considered to be a specific genomic locus for differentiating M. lepromatosis from M. leprae. The locus was annotated as HemN (Coproporphyrinogen III oxidase) based on the available annotations in other mycobacterial species. However, we noticed that the MLPM_5000 and its orthologues in different mycobacterial species show a much higher degree of similarity with Escherichia coli HemW (378 aa) in comparison to the E. coli HemN (457 aa). Additionally, the fourth cysteine of the characteristic CX3CX2CXC motif of the E. coli HemN is replaced by a phenylalanine in the M. lepromatosis MLPM_5000 and its mycobacterial orthologues, which is a hallmark of heme chaperone protein HemW in E. coli and other species. Phylogenetic analysis of MLPM_5000 and its mycobacterial orthologues also showed that these proteins form a divergent phylogenetic clade with the HemW proteins of other species such as Escherichia coli and Lactococcus lactis. Further, Molecular Dynamics simulation studies also predicted that the residues of conserved HNXXYW motif of the MLPM_5000 may have a role in binding to heme part of the host hemoglobin, thereby suggesting it to be a HemW instead of HemN. Altogether, this work shows that MLPM_5000 and its mycobacterial orthologues are highly unlikely to be HemN. Therefore, the current annotations of mycobacterial HemN sequences should be corrected to heme chaperone ‘HemW’ in various protein databases. The study not only corrects the mis-annotation but also provides a new perspective in the context of evolutionary history of M. leprae and M. lepromatosis such as lack of HemW in M. leprae may explain some of the variations in the virulence between the two pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105015
JournalInfection, Genetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • HemN
  • HemW
  • Leprosy
  • Mis-annotation
  • Mycobacterium lepromatosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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