Glutathione metabolism is associated with oxygenic cyanobacteria and the oxygen-utilizing purple bacteria, but is absent in many other prokaryotes. This review focuses on novel thiols found in those bacteria lacking glutathione. Included are glutathione amide and its perthiol, produced by phototrophic purple sulfur bacteria and apparently involved in their sulfide metabolism. Among archaebacteria, coenzyme M (2-mercaptoethanesulfonic acid) and coenzyme B (7-mercaptoheptanoylthreonine phosphate) play central roles in the anaerobic production of CH and associated energy conversion by methanogens, whereas the major thiol in the aerobic phototrophic halobacteria is γ-glutamylcysteine. The highly aerobic actinomycetes produce mycothiol, a conjugate of -acetylcysteine with a pseudodisaccharide of glucosamine and -inositol, AcCys-GlcNα(1 → 1)Ins, which appears to play an antioxidant role similar to glutathione. Ergothioneine, also produced by actinomycetes, remains a mystery despite many years of study. Available data on the biosynthesis and metabolism of these and other novel thiols is summarized and key areas for additional study are identified.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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