Cysteine desulphurases are primary sources of sulphur that can eventually be used for Fe/S biogenesis or thiolation of various cofactors and tRNA. Escherichia coli contains three such enzymes, IscS, SufS and CsdA. The importance of IscS and SufS in Fe/S biogenesis is well established. The physiological role of CsdA in contrast remains uncertain. We provide here additional evidences for a functional redundancy between the three cysteine desulphurases in vivo. In particular, we show that a deficiency in isoprenoid biosynthesis is the unique cause of the lethality of the iscS sufS mutant. Moreover, we show that CsdA is engaged in two separate sulphur transfer pathways. In one pathway, CsdA interacts functionally with SufE-SufBCD proteins to assist Fe/S biogenesis. In another pathway, CsdA interacts with CsdE and a newly discovered protein, which we called CsdL, resembling E1-like proteins found in ubiquitin-like modification systems. We propose this new pathway to allow synthesis of an as yet to be discovered thiolated compound.
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