Metabolic regulation in microbial biofuel producers
The production of biofuels from cellulosic biomass holds promise as a source of clean renewable energy that can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Attaining this goal will require engineered microorganisms capable of economical conversion of cellulosic biomass into biofuels. Effective microbe design relies on understanding the relevant metabolic pathways and their regulation, including how the integrated networks function as a whole. Current project in our lab integrate systems-level analyses, especially metabolomics, computational modeling, and genetic engineering to advance understanding of metabolism in a variety of emerging biofuel producing microorganisms, including Z. mobilis, C. thermocellum, S. cerevisiae, and others. Our main research objectives in this area are: 1) Systems-level analysis of metabolic regulation in biofuel producing microorganisms and 2) Engineering symbiotic microbial consortia for biofuel production.
Metabolic remodeling during B. subtilis biofilm development
Most bacteria naturally congregate to form complex communities called biofilms through an elaborate process that involves production of secreted polymeric substances, allowing cells to stick to each other and to surfaces while conferring protection against harsh environments. Bacterial biofilms are abundant in natural environments and play an important role in many clinical, industrial, and ecological settings. Due to the ubiquity and significant impacts of biofilms on human activities, there is a clear need to better understand the complex processes that control biofilm formation and development. Current projects in our lab investigate a critical but barely understood aspect of biofilms: cellular metabolism during biofilm development.
We hypothesize that dynamic remodeling of central carbon and nitrogen metabolism constitutes an essential component of the highly coordinated physiological response that takes place during biofilm development. Using Bacillus subtilis as a model organism, we leverage state-of-the-art systems-level metabolomic and proteomic approaches, microscopy, and quantitative computational modeling, to pursue the following objectives: 1) a systems-level quantitative understanding of how metabolism is remodeled during biofilm formation; 2) elucidation of driving regulatory mechanisms controlling metabolic remodeling during biofilm formation; 3) novel insights regarding metabolic heterogeneity within biofilm cell subpopulations; and 4) elucidation of the physiological relevance of major metabolic alterations during biofilm development. This research will advance our understanding of the underlying logic and unifying principles behind the complex signaling systems of biofilm regulatory networks and will provide a holistic and quantitative understanding of the role of metabolism in biofilm development.
Bile acid transformations by the human gut microbe
Within the last decade, the central role the gut microbiota plays in human health has become widely recognized. An important way in which gut microbes affects host physiology is through their ability to chemically modify bile acids produced by the host. Bile acids act as signaling molecules within the host by modulating activity of nuclear hormone receptors in liver and other tissues and can also modulate gut microbiota composition via selective antimicrobial properties. Changes to the bile acid pool by gut microbes therefore has the potential to affect physiology in these organs, nutrient absorption, drug metabolism, and susceptibility to infection by bacterial pathogens. However, fundamental aspects of this process are still poorly understood. In particular, the distribution of bile acid transforming activity within gut microbes remains largely unexplored and the effects on host physiology resulting from modifications in the bile pool resulting from bacterial action remain poorly understood. Projects in our lab aim to generate a systematic and quantitative understanding of bile acid transforming capabilities in gut microbes and advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which modulation of BA pools by host microbes, via production of secondary bile acids, affect liver host physiology and metabolism.
Zymomonas mobilis is an industrially relevant aerotolerant anaerobic bacterium that can convert up to 96% of consumed glucose to ethanol. This highly catabolic metabolism could be leveraged to produce isoprenoid-based bioproducts via the methylerythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway, but we currently have limited knowledge concerning the metabolic constraints of this pathway in Z. mobilis. Here, we performed an initial investigation of the metabolic bottlenecks within the MEP pathway of Z. mobilis using enzyme overexpression strains and quantitative metabolomics. Our analysis revealed that 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase (DXS) represents the first enzymatic bottleneck in the Z. mobilis MEP pathway. DXS overexpression triggered large increases in the intracellular levels of the first five MEP pathway intermediates, of which the buildup in 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 2,4-cyclodiphosphate (MEcDP) was the most substantial. The combined overexpression of DXS, 4-hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enyl diphosphate (HMBDP) synthase (IspG), and HMBDP reductase (IspH) mitigated the bottleneck at MEcDP and mobilized carbon to downstream MEP pathway intermediates, indicating that IspG and IspH activity become the primary pathway constraints during DXS overexpression. Finally, we overexpressed DXS with other native MEP enzymes and a heterologous isoprene synthase and showed that isoprene can be used as a carbon sink in the Z. mobilis MEP pathway. By revealing key bottlenecks within the MEP pathway of Z. mobilis, this study will aid future engineering efforts aimed at developing this bacterium for industrial isoprenoid production. IMPORTANCE Engineered microorganisms have the potential to convert renewable substrates into biofuels and valuable bioproducts, which offers an environmentally sustainable alternative to fossil-fuel-derived products. Isoprenoids are a diverse class of biologically derived compounds that have commercial applications as various commodity chemicals, including biofuels and biofuel precursor molecules. Thus, isoprenoids represent a desirable target for large-scale microbial generation. However, our ability to engineer microbes for the industrial production of isoprenoid-derived bioproducts is limited by an incomplete understanding of the bottlenecks in the biosynthetic pathway responsible for isoprenoid precursor generation. In this study, we combined genetic engineering with quantitative analyses of metabolism to examine the capabilities and constraints of the isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway in the industrially relevant microbe Zymomonas mobilis. Our integrated and systematic approach identified multiple enzymes whose overexpression in Z. mobilis results in an increased production of isoprenoid precursor molecules and mitigation of metabolic bottlenecks.
The cytosol of eukaryotic host cells is an intrinsically hostile environment for bacteria. Understanding how cytosolic pathogens adapt to and survive in the cytosol is critical to developing novel therapeutic interventions against these pathogens. The cytosolic pathogen Listeria monocytogenes requires glmR (previously known as yvcK ), a gene of unknown function, for resistance to cell-wall stress, cytosolic survival, inflammasome avoidance, and, ultimately, virulence in vivo . In this study, a genetic suppressor screen revealed that blocking utilization of UDP N -acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) by a nonessential wall teichoic acid decoration pathway restored resistance to lysozyme and partially restored virulence of Δ glmR mutants. In parallel, metabolomic analysis revealed that Δ glmR mutants are impaired in the production of UDP-GlcNAc, an essential peptidoglycan and wall teichoic acid (WTA) precursor. We next demonstrated that purified GlmR can directly catalyze the synthesis of UDP-GlcNAc from GlcNAc-1P and UTP, suggesting that it is an accessory uridyltransferase. Biochemical analysis of GlmR orthologues suggests that uridyltransferase activity is conserved. Finally, mutational analysis resulting in a GlmR mutant with impaired catalytic activity demonstrated that uridyltransferase activity was essential to facilitate cell-wall stress responses and virulence in vivo . Taken together, these studies indicate that GlmR is an evolutionary conserved accessory uridyltransferase required for cytosolic survival and virulence of L. monocytogenes. IMPORTANCE Bacterial pathogens must adapt to their host environment in order to cause disease. The cytosolic bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes requires a highly conserved protein of unknown function, GlmR (previously known as YvcK), to survive in the host cytosol. GlmR is important for resistance to some cell-wall stresses and is essential for virulence. The Δ glmR mutant is deficient in production of an essential cell-wall metabolite, UDP-GlcNAc, and suppressors that increase metabolite levels also restore virulence. Purified GlmR can directly catalyze the synthesis of UDP-GlcNAc, and this enzymatic activity is conserved in both Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus. These results highlight the importance of accessory cell wall metabolism enzymes in responding to cell-wall stress in a variety of Gram-positive bacteria.
Listeria monocytogenes is a remarkably well-adapted facultative intracellular pathogen that can thrive in a wide range of ecological niches. L. monocytogenes maximizes its ability to generate energy from diverse carbon sources using a respiro-fermentative metabolism that can function under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Cellular respiration maintains redox homeostasis by regenerating NAD while also generating a proton motive force (PMF). The end products of the menaquinone (MK) biosynthesis pathway are essential to drive both aerobic and anaerobic cellular respiration. We previously demonstrated that intermediates in the MK biosynthesis pathway, notably 1,4-dihydroxy-2-naphthoate (DHNA), are required for the survival and virulence of L. monocytogenes independent of their role in respiration. Furthermore, we found that restoration of NAD /NADH ratio through expression of water-forming NADH oxidase (NOX) could rescue phenotypes associated with DHNA deficiency. Here we extend these findings to demonstrate that endogenous production or direct supplementation of DHNA restored both the cellular redox homeostasis and metabolic output of fermentation in L. monocytogenes . Further, exogenous supplementation of DHNA rescues the in vitro growth and ex vivo virulence of L. monocytogenes DHNA-deficient mutants. Finally, we demonstrate that exogenous DHNA restores redox balance in L. monocytogenes specifically through the recently annotated NADH dehydrogenase Ndh2, independent of the extracellular electron transport (EET) pathway. These data suggest that the production of DHNA may represent an additional layer of metabolic adaptability by L. monocytogenes to drive energy metabolism in the absence of respiration-favorable conditions.
Plants produce many high-value oleochemical molecules. While oil-crop agriculture is performed at industrial scales, suitable land is not available to meet global oleochemical demand. Worse, establishing new oil-crop farms often comes with the environmental cost of tropical deforestation. The field of metabolic engineering offers tools to transplant oleochemical metabolism into tractable hosts while simultaneously providing access to molecules produced by non-agricultural plants. Here, we evaluate strategies for rewiring metabolism in the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica to synthesize a foreign lipid, 3-acetyl-1,2-diacyl-sn-glycerol (acTAG). Oils made up of acTAG have a reduced viscosity and melting point relative to traditional triacylglycerol oils making them attractive as low-grade diesels, lubricants, and emulsifiers. This manuscript describes a metabolic engineering study that established acTAG production at g/L scale, exploration of the impact of lipid bodies on acTAG titer, and a techno-economic analysis that establishes the performance benchmarks required for microbial acTAG production to be economically feasible.
Small alarmone hydrolases (SAHs) are alarmone metabolizing enzymes found in both metazoans and bacteria. In metazoans, the SAH homolog Mesh1 is reported to function in cofactor metabolism by hydrolyzing NADPH to NADH. In bacteria, SAHs are often identified in genomes with toxic alarmone synthetases for self-resistance. Here, we characterized a bacterial orphan SAH, i.e., without a toxic alarmone synthetase, in the phytopathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris ( Xcc SAH) and found that it metabolizes both cellular alarmones and cofactors. In vitro , Xcc SAH displays abilities to hydrolyze multiple nucleotides, including pppGpp, ppGpp, pGpp, pppApp, and NADPH. In vivo , X. campestris pv. campestris cells lacking sah accumulated higher levels of cellular (pp)pGpp and NADPH compared to wild-type cells upon amino acid starvation. In addition, X. campestris pv. campestris mutants lacking sah were more sensitive to killing by Pseudomonas during interbacterial competition. Interestingly, loss of sah also resulted in reduced growth in amino acid-replete medium, a condition that did not induce (pp)pGpp or pppApp accumulation. Further metabolomic characterization revealed strong depletion of NADH levels in the X. campestris pv. campestris mutant lacking sah , suggesting that NADPH/NADH regulation is an evolutionarily conserved function of both bacterial and metazoan SAHs and Mesh1. Overall, our work demonstrates a regulatory role of bacterial SAHs as tuners of stress responses and metabolism, beyond functioning as antitoxins. IMPORTANCE Small alarmone hydrolases (SAHs) comprise a widespread family of alarmone metabolizing enzymes. In metazoans, SAHs have been reported to control multiple aspects of physiology and stress resistance through alarmone and NADPH metabolisms, but their physiological functions in bacteria is mostly uncharacterized except for a few reports as antitoxins. Here, we identified an SAH functioning independently of toxins in the phytopathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris . We found that Xcc SAH hydrolyzed multiple alarmones and NADPH in vitro , and X. campestris pv. campestris mutants lacking sah displayed increased alarmone levels during starvation, loss of interspecies competitive fitness, growth defects, and strong reduction in NADH. Our findings reveal the importance of NADPH hydrolysis by a bacterial SAH. Our work is also the first report of significant physiological roles of bacterial SAHs beyond functioning as antitoxins and suggests that SAHs have far broader physiological roles and share similar functions across domains of life.
Glycolysis is an ancient, widespread, and highly conserved metabolic pathway that converts glucose into pyruvate. In the canonical pathway, the phosphofructokinase (PFK) reaction plays an important role in controlling flux through the pathway. Clostridium thermocellum has an atypical glycolysis and uses pyrophosphate (PP) instead of ATP as the phosphate donor for the PFK reaction. The reduced thermodynamic driving force of the PP-PFK reaction shifts the entire pathway closer to thermodynamic equilibrium, which has been predicted to limit product titers. Here, we replace the PP-PFK reaction with an ATP-PFK reaction. We demonstrate that the local changes are consistent with thermodynamic predictions: the ratio of fructose 1,6-bisphosphate to fructose-6-phosphate increases, and the reverse flux through the reaction (determined by C labeling) decreases. The final titer and distribution of fermentation products, however, do not change, demonstrating that the thermodynamic constraints of the PP-PFK reaction are not the sole factor limiting product titer. IMPORTANCE The ability to control the distribution of thermodynamic driving force throughout a metabolic pathway is likely to be an important tool for metabolic engineering. The phosphofructokinase reaction is a key enzyme in Embden-Mayerhof-Parnas glycolysis and therefore improving the thermodynamic driving force of this reaction in C. thermocellum is believed to enable higher product titers. Here, we demonstrate switching from pyrophosphate to ATP does in fact increases the thermodynamic driving force of the phosphofructokinase reaction in vivo . This study also identifies and overcomes a physiological hurdle toward expressing an ATP-dependent phosphofructokinase in an organism that utilizes an atypical glycolytic pathway. As such, the method described here to enable expression of ATP-dependent phosphofructokinase in an organism with an atypical glycolytic pathway will be informative toward engineering the glycolytic pathways of other industrial organism candidates with atypical glycolytic pathways.
Diadenosine tetraphosphate (Ap4A) is a putative second messenger molecule that is conserved from bacteria to humans. Nevertheless, its physiological role and the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly characterized. We investigated the molecular mechanism by which Ap4A regulates inosine-5'-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH, a key branching point enzyme for the biosynthesis of adenosine or guanosine nucleotides) in Bacillus subtilis. We solved the crystal structure of BsIMPDH bound to Ap4A at a resolution of 2.45 Å to show that Ap4A binds to the interface between two IMPDH subunits, acting as the glue that switches active IMPDH tetramers into less active octamers. Guided by these insights, we engineered mutant strains of B. subtilis that bypass Ap4A-dependent IMPDH regulation without perturbing intracellular Ap4A pools themselves. We used metabolomics, which suggests that these mutants have a dysregulated purine, and in particular GTP, metabolome and phenotypic analysis, which shows increased sensitivity of B. subtilis IMPDH mutant strains to heat compared with wild-type strains. Our study identifies a central role for IMPDH in remodelling metabolism and heat resistance, and provides evidence that Ap4A can function as an alarmone.
Metabolic engineering strategies have been successfully implemented to improve the production of isobutanol, a next-generation biofuel, in Saccharomyces cerevisiae . Here, we explore how two of these strategies, pathway re-localization and redox cofactor-balancing, affect the performance and physiology of isobutanol producing strains. We equipped yeast with isobutanol cassettes which had either a mitochondrial or cytosolic localized isobutanol pathway and used either a redox-imbalanced (NADPH-dependent) or redox-balanced (NADH-dependent) ketol-acid reductoisomerase enzyme. We then conducted transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic analyses to elucidate molecular differences between the engineered strains. Pathway localization had a large effect on isobutanol production with the strain expressing the mitochondrial-localized enzymes producing 3.8-fold more isobutanol than strains expressing the cytosolic enzymes. Cofactor-balancing did not improve isobutanol titers and instead the strain with the redox-imbalanced pathway produced 1.5-fold more isobutanol than the balanced version, albeit at low overall pathway flux. Functional genomic analyses suggested that the poor performances of the cytosolic pathway strains were in part due to a shortage in cytosolic Fe-S clusters, which are required cofactors for the dihydroxyacid dehydratase enzyme. We then demonstrated that this cofactor limitation may be partially recovered by disrupting iron homeostasis with a fra2 mutation, thereby increasing cellular iron levels. The resulting isobutanol titer of the fra2 null strain harboring a cytosolic-localized isobutanol pathway outperformed the strain with the mitochondrial-localized pathway by 1.3-fold, demonstrating that both localizations can support flux to isobutanol.
While much effort has been placed on comprehensive quantitative proteome analysis, certain applications demand the measurement of only a few target proteins from complex systems. Traditional approaches to targeted proteomics rely on nanoliquid chromatography (nLC) and targeted mass spectrometry (MS) methods, e.g., parallel reaction monitoring (PRM). However, the time requirement for nLC can limit the throughput of targeted proteomics. To achieve rapid and high-throughput targeted methods, here we show that nLC separations can be eliminated and replaced with direct infusion shotgun proteome analysis (DISPA) using high-field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS) with PRM. We demonstrate the application of DISPA-PRM for rapid targeted quantification of bacterial enzymes utilized in the production of biofuels by monitoring temporal expression in 72 metabolically engineered bacterial cultures in less than 2.5 h, with a measured dynamic range >1200-fold. We conclude that DISPA-PRM presents a valuable innovative tool with results comparable to nLC-MS/MS, enabling fast and rapid detection of targeted proteins in complex mixtures.
Clostridium thermocellum is a promising candidate for consolidated bioprocessing because it can directly ferment cellulose to ethanol. Despite significant efforts, achieved yields and titers fall below industrially relevant targets. This implies that there still exist unknown enzymatic, regulatory, and/or possibly thermodynamic bottlenecks that can throttle back metabolic flow. By (i) elucidating internal metabolic fluxes in wild-type C. thermocellum grown on cellobiose via C-metabolic flux analysis (C-MFA), (ii) parameterizing a core kinetic model, and (iii) subsequently deploying an ensemble-docking workflow for discovering substrate-level regulations, this paper aims to reveal some of these factors and expand our knowledgebase governing C. thermocellum metabolism. Generated C labeling data were used with C-MFA to generate a wild-type flux distribution for the metabolic network. Notably, flux elucidation through MFA alluded to serine generation via the mercaptopyruvate pathway. Using the elucidated flux distributions in conjunction with batch fermentation process yield data for various mutant strains, we constructed a kinetic model of C. thermocellum core metabolism (i.e. k-ctherm138). Subsequently, we used the parameterized kinetic model to explore the effect of removing substrate-level regulations on ethanol yield and titer. Upon exploring all possible simultaneous (up to four) regulation removals we identified combinations that lead to many-fold model predicted improvement in ethanol titer. In addition, by coupling a systematic method for identifying putative competitive inhibitory mechanisms using K-FIT kinetic parameterization with the ensemble-docking workflow, we flagged 67 putative substrate-level inhibition mechanisms across central carbon metabolism supported by both kinetic formalism and docking analysis.
Thermodynamic analysis of metabolic networks has emerged as a useful new tool for pathway design and metabolic engineering. Understanding the relationship between the thermodynamic driving force of biochemical reactions and metabolic flux has generated new insights regarding the design principles of microbial carbon metabolism. This review summarizes the various lessons that can be obtained from the thermodynamic analysis of metabolic pathways, illustrates concepts of computational thermodynamic tools, and highlights recent applications of thermodynamic analysis to pathway design in industrially relevant microbes.
Zymomonas mobilis is an ethanologenic bacterium currently being developed for production of advanced biofuels. Recent studies have shown that Z. mobilis can fix dinitrogen gas (N) as a sole nitrogen source. During N fixation, Z. mobilis exhibits increased biomass-specific rates of ethanol production. In order to better understand the physiology of Z. mobilis during N fixation and during changes in ammonium (NH) availability, we performed liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS)-based targeted metabolomics and shotgun proteomics under three regimes of nitrogen availability: continuous N fixation, gradual NH depletion, and acute NH addition to N-fixing cells. We report dynamic changes in abundance of proteins and metabolites related to nitrogen fixation, motility, ammonium assimilation, amino acid biosynthesis, nucleotide biosynthesis, isoprenoid biosynthesis, and Entner-Doudoroff (ED) glycolysis, providing insight into the regulatory mechanisms that control these processes in Z. mobilis. Our analysis identified potential physiological mechanisms that may contribute to increased specific ethanol production during N fixation, including decreased activity of biosynthetic pathways, increased protein abundance of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADHI), and increased thermodynamic favorability of the ED pathway. Of particular relevance to advanced biofuel production, we found that intermediates in the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway for isoprenoid biosynthesis were depleted during N fixation, coinciding with decreased protein abundance of deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate synthase (DXS), the first enzyme in the pathway. This implies that DXS protein abundance serves as a native control point in regulating MEP pathway activity in Z. mobilis. The results of this study will inform metabolic engineering to further develop Z. mobilis as a platform organism for biofuel production. IMPORTANCE Biofuels and bioproducts have the potential to serve as environmentally sustainable replacements for petroleum-derived fuels and commodity molecules. Advanced fuels such as higher alcohols and isoprenoids are more suitable gasoline replacements than bioethanol. Developing microbial systems to generate advanced biofuels requires metabolic engineering to reroute carbon away from ethanol and other native products and toward desired pathways, such as the MEP pathway for isoprenoid biosynthesis. However, rational engineering of microbial metabolism relies on understanding metabolic control points, in terms of both enzyme activity and thermodynamic favorability. In Z. mobilis, the factors that control glycolytic rates, ethanol production, and isoprenoid production are still not fully understood. In this study, we performed metabolomic, proteomic, and thermodynamic analysis of Z. mobilis during N fixation. This analysis identified key changes in metabolite levels, enzyme abundance, and glycolytic thermodynamic favorability that occurred during changes in NH availability, helping to inform future efforts in metabolic engineering.
Understanding the principles of colonization resistance of the gut microbiome to the pathogen Clostridioides difficile will enable the design of defined bacterial therapeutics. We investigate the ecological principles of community resistance to C. difficile using a synthetic human gut microbiome. Using a dynamic computational model, we demonstrate that C. difficile receives the largest number and magnitude of incoming negative interactions. Our results show that C. difficile is in a unique class of species that display a strong negative dependence between growth and species richness. We identify molecular mechanisms of inhibition including acidification of the environment and competition over resources. We demonstrate that Clostridium hiranonis strongly inhibits C. difficile partially via resource competition. Increasing the initial density of C. difficile can increase its abundance in the assembled community, but community context determines the maximum achievable C. difficile abundance. Our work suggests that the C. difficile inhibitory potential of defined bacterial therapeutics can be optimized by designing communities featuring a combination of mechanisms including species richness, environment acidification, and resource competition.
Listeria monocytogenes is an intracellular bacterium that elicits robust CD8+ T-cell responses. Despite the ongoing development of L. monocytogenes-based platforms as cancer vaccines, our understanding of how L. monocytogenes drives robust CD8+ T-cell responses remains incomplete. One overarching hypothesis is that activation of cytosolic innate pathways is critical for immunity, as strains of L. monocytogenes that are unable to access the cytosol fail to elicit robust CD8+ T-cell responses and in fact inhibit optimal T-cell priming. Counterintuitively, however, activation of known cytosolic pathways, such as the inflammasome and type I IFN, lead to impaired immunity. Conversely, production of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) downstream of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is essential for optimal L. monocytogenes T-cell priming. Here, we demonstrate that vacuole-constrained L. monocytogenes elicit reduced PGE2 production compared to wild-type strains in macrophages and dendritic cells ex vivo. In vivo, infection with wild-type L. monocytogenes leads to 10-fold increases in PGE2 production early during infection whereas vacuole-constrained strains fail to induce PGE2 over mock-immunized controls. Mice deficient in COX-2 specifically in Lyz2+ or CD11c+ cells produce less PGE2, suggesting these cell subsets contribute to PGE2 levels in vivo, while depletion of phagocytes with clodronate abolishes PGE2 production completely. Taken together, this work demonstrates that optimal PGE2 production by phagocytes depends on L. monocytogenes access to the cytosol, suggesting that one reason cytosolic access is required to prime CD8+ T-cell responses may be to facilitate production of PGE2.
Gut bacteria influence human physiology by chemically modifying host-synthesized primary bile acids. These modified bile acids, known as secondary bile acids, can act as signaling molecules that modulate host lipid, glucose, and energy metabolism and affect gut microbiota composition via selective antimicrobial properties. However, knowledge regarding the bile acid-transforming capabilities of individual gut microbes remains limited. To help address this knowledge gap, we screened 72 bacterial isolates, spanning seven major phyla commonly found in the human gut, for their ability to chemically modify unconjugated bile acids. We found that 43 isolates, representing 41 species, were capable of in vitro modification of one or more of the three most abundant unconjugated bile acids in humans: cholic acid, chenodeoxycholic acid, and deoxycholic acid. Of these, 32 species have not been previously described as bile acid transformers. The most prevalent bile acid transformations detected were oxidation of 3α-, 7α-, or 12α-hydroxyl groups on the steroid core, a reaction catalyzed by hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases. In addition, we found 7α-dehydroxylation activity to be distributed across various bacterial genera, and we observed several other complex bile acid transformations. Finally, our screen revealed widespread bacterial conjugation of primary and secondary bile acids to glycine, a process that was thought to only occur in the liver, and to 15 other amino acids, resulting in the discovery of 44 novel microbially conjugated bile acids. IMPORTANCE Our current knowledge regarding microbial bile acid transformations comes primarily from biochemical studies on a relatively small number of species or from bioinformatic predictions that rely on homology to known bile acid-transforming enzyme sequences. Therefore, much remains to be learned regarding the variety of bile acid transformations and their representation across gut microbial species. By carrying out a systematic investigation of bacterial species commonly found in the human intestinal tract, this study helps better define the gut bacteria that impact composition of the bile acid pool, which has implications in the context of metabolic disorders and cancers of the digestive tract. Our results greatly expand upon the list of bacterial species known to perform different types of bile acid transformations. This knowledge will be vital for assessing the causal connections between the microbiome, bile acid pool composition, and human health.
Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria belonging to the genus Nitrospira mediate a key step in nitrification and play important roles in the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle and wastewater treatment. While these organisms have recently been shown to exhibit metabolic flexibility beyond their chemolithoautotrophic lifestyle, including the use of simple organic compounds to fuel their energy metabolism, the metabolic networks controlling their autotrophic and mixotrophic growth remain poorly understood. Here, we reconstructed a genome-scale metabolic model for Nitrospira moscoviensis ( i Nmo686) and used flux balance analysis to evaluate the metabolic networks controlling autotrophic and formatotrophic growth on nitrite and formate, respectively. Subsequently, proteomic analysis and [C]bicarbonate and [C]formate tracer experiments coupled to metabolomic analysis were performed to experimentally validate model predictions. Our findings corroborate that N. moscoviensis uses the reductive tricarboxylic acid cycle for CO fixation, and we also show that N. moscoviensis can indirectly use formate as a carbon source by oxidizing it first to CO followed by reassimilation, rather than direct incorporation via the reductive glycine pathway. Our study offers the first measurements of Nitrospira 's in vivo central carbon metabolism and provides a quantitative tool that can be used for understanding and predicting their metabolic processes. IMPORTANCE Nitrospira spp. are globally abundant nitrifying bacteria in soil and aquatic ecosystems and in wastewater treatment plants, where they control the oxidation of nitrite to nitrate. Despite their critical contribution to nitrogen cycling across diverse environments, detailed understanding of their metabolic network and prediction of their function under different environmental conditions remains a major challenge. Here, we provide the first constraint-based metabolic model of Nitrospira moscoviensis representing the ubiquitous Nitrospira lineage II and subsequently validate this model using proteomics and C-tracers combined with intracellular metabolomic analysis. The resulting genome-scale model will serve as a knowledge base of Nitrospira metabolism and lays the foundation for quantitative systems biology studies of these globally important nitrite-oxidizing bacteria.
To reproduce, prokaryotic viruses must hijack the cellular machinery of their hosts and redirect it toward the production of viral particles. While takeover of the host replication and protein synthesis apparatus has long been considered an essential feature of infection, recent studies indicate that extensive reprogramming of host primary metabolism is a widespread phenomenon among prokaryotic viruses that is required to fulfill the biosynthetic needs of virion production. In this review we provide an overview of the most significant recent findings regarding virus-induced reprogramming of prokaryotic metabolism and suggest how quantitative systems biology approaches may be used to provide a holistic understanding of metabolic remodeling during lytic viral infection.
Polyketide synthases (PKS) and nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS) comprise biosynthetic pathways that provide access to diverse, often bioactive natural products. Metabolic engineering can improve production metrics to support characterization and drug-development studies, but often native hosts are difficult to genetically manipulate and/or culture. For this reason, heterologous expression is a common strategy for natural product discovery and characterization. Many bacteria have been developed to express heterologous biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) for producing polyketides and nonribosomal peptides. In this article, we describe tools for using Pseudomonas putida, a Gram-negative soil bacterium, as a heterologous host for producing natural products. Pseudomonads are known to produce many natural products, but P. putida production titers have been inconsistent in the literature and often low compared to other hosts. In recent years, synthetic biology tools for engineering P. putida have greatly improved, but their application towards production of natural products is limited. To demonstrate the potential of P. putida as a heterologous host, we introduced BGCs encoding the synthesis of prodigiosin and glidobactin A, two bioactive natural products synthesized from a combination of PKS and NRPS enzymology. Engineered strains exhibited robust production of both compounds after a single chromosomal integration of the corresponding BGC. Next, we took advantage of a set of genome-editing tools to increase titers by modifying transcription and translation of the BGCs and increasing the availability of auxiliary proteins required for PKS and NRPS activity. Lastly, we discovered genetic modifications to P. putida that affect natural product synthesis, including a strategy for removing a carbon sink that improves product titers. These efforts resulted in production strains capable of producing 1.1 g/L prodigiosin and 470 mg/L glidobactin A.
No abstract available.
The capability to design microbiomes with predictable functions would enable new technologies for applications in health, agriculture, and bioprocessing. Towards this goal, we develop a model-guided approach to design synthetic human gut microbiomes for production of the health-relevant metabolite butyrate. Our data-driven model quantifies microbial interactions impacting growth and butyrate production separately, providing key insights into ecological mechanisms driving butyrate production. We use our model to explore a vast community design space using a design-test-learn cycle to identify high butyrate-producing communities. Our model can accurately predict community assembly and butyrate production across a wide range of species richness. Guided by the model, we identify constraints on butyrate production by high species richness and key molecular factors driving butyrate production, including hydrogen sulfide, environmental pH, and resource competition. In sum, our model-guided approach provides a flexible and generalizable framework for understanding and accurately predicting community assembly and metabolic functions.
Hydrolysis of nucleoside triphosphates releases similar amounts of energy. However, ATP hydrolysis is typically used for energy-intensive reactions, whereas GTP hydrolysis typically functions as a switch. SpoIVA is a bacterial cytoskeletal protein that hydrolyzes ATP to polymerize irreversibly during Bacillus subtilis sporulation. SpoIVA evolved from a TRAFAC class of P-loop GTPases, but the evolutionary pressure that drove this change in nucleotide specificity is unclear. We therefore reengineered the nucleotide-binding pocket of SpoIVA to mimic its ancestral GTPase activity. SpoIVA functioned properly as a GTPase but failed to polymerize because it did not form an NDP-bound intermediate that we report is required for polymerization. Further, incubation of SpoIVA with limiting ATP did not promote efficient polymerization. This approach revealed that the nucleotide base, in addition to the energy released from hydrolysis, can be critical in specific biological functions. We also present data suggesting that increased levels of ATP relative to GTP at the end of sporulation was the evolutionary pressure that drove the change in nucleotide preference in SpoIVA.
In filamentous fungi, asexual development involves cellular differentiation and metabolic remodeling leading to the formation of intact asexual spores. The development of asexual spores (conidia) in Aspergillus is precisely coordinated by multiple transcription factors (TFs), including VosA, VelB, and WetA. Notably, these three TFs are essential for the structural and metabolic integrity, i.e., proper maturation, of conidia in the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans To gain mechanistic insight into the complex regulatory and interdependent roles of these TFs in asexual sporogenesis, we carried out multi-omics studies on the transcriptome, protein-DNA interactions, and primary and secondary metabolism employing A. nidulans conidia. RNA sequencing and chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing analyses have revealed that the three TFs directly or indirectly regulate the expression of genes associated with heterotrimeric G-protein signal transduction, mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases, spore wall formation and structural integrity, asexual development, and primary/secondary metabolism. In addition, metabolomics analyses of wild-type and individual mutant conidia indicate that these three TFs regulate a diverse array of primary metabolites, including those in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, certain amino acids, and trehalose, and secondary metabolites such as sterigmatocystin, emericellamide, austinol, and dehydroaustinol. In summary, WetA, VosA, and VelB play interdependent, overlapping, and distinct roles in governing morphological development and primary/secondary metabolic remodeling in Aspergillus conidia, leading to the production of vital conidia suitable for fungal proliferation and dissemination. IMPORTANCE Filamentous fungi produce a vast number of asexual spores that act as efficient propagules. Due to their infectious and/or allergenic nature, fungal spores affect our daily life. Aspergillus species produce asexual spores called conidia; their formation involves morphological development and metabolic changes, and the associated regulatory systems are coordinated by multiple transcription factors (TFs). To understand the underlying global regulatory programs and cellular outcomes associated with conidium formation, genomic and metabolomic analyses were performed in the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans Our results show that the fungus-specific WetA/VosA/VelB TFs govern the coordination of morphological and chemical developments during sporogenesis. The results of this study provide insights into the interdependent, overlapping, or distinct genetic regulatory networks necessary to produce intact asexual spores. The findings are relevant for other Aspergillus species such as the major human pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus and the aflatoxin producer Aspergillus flavus .
The alarmone nucleotides guanosine tetraphosphate and pentaphosphate, commonly referred to as (p)ppGpp, regulate bacterial responses to nutritional and other stresses. There is evidence for potential existence of a third alarmone, guanosine-5'-monophosphate-3'-diphosphate (pGpp), with less-clear functions. Here, we demonstrate the presence of pGpp in bacterial cells, and perform a comprehensive screening to identify proteins that interact respectively with pGpp, ppGpp and pppGpp in Bacillus species. Both ppGpp and pppGpp interact with proteins involved in inhibition of purine nucleotide biosynthesis and with GTPases that control ribosome assembly or activity. By contrast, pGpp interacts with purine biosynthesis proteins but not with the GTPases. In addition, we show that hydrolase NahA (also known as YvcI) efficiently produces pGpp by hydrolyzing (p)ppGpp, thus modulating alarmone composition and function. Deletion of nahA leads to reduction of pGpp levels, increased (p)ppGpp levels, slower growth recovery from nutrient downshift, and loss of competitive fitness. Our results support the existence and physiological relevance of pGpp as a third alarmone, with functions that can be distinct from those of (p)ppGpp.
Anaerobic ammonium-oxidizing (anammox) bacteria mediate a key step in the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle and have been applied worldwide for the energy-efficient removal of nitrogen from wastewater. However, outside their core energy metabolism, little is known about the metabolic networks driving anammox bacterial anabolism and use of different carbon and energy substrates beyond genome-based predictions. Here, we experimentally resolved the central carbon metabolism of the anammox bacterium Candidatus 'Kuenenia stuttgartiensis' using time-series C and H isotope tracing, metabolomics, and isotopically nonstationary metabolic flux analysis. Our findings confirm predicted metabolic pathways used for CO fixation, central metabolism, and amino acid biosynthesis in K. stuttgartiensis, and reveal several instances where genomic predictions are not supported by in vivo metabolic fluxes. This includes the use of the oxidative branch of an incomplete tricarboxylic acid cycle for alpha-ketoglutarate biosynthesis, despite the genome not having an annotated citrate synthase. We also demonstrate that K. stuttgartiensis is able to directly assimilate extracellular formate via the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway instead of oxidizing it completely to CO followed by reassimilation. In contrast, our data suggest that K. stuttgartiensis is not capable of using acetate as a carbon or energy source in situ and that acetate oxidation occurred via the metabolic activity of a low-abundance microorganism in the bioreactor's side population. Together, these findings provide a foundation for understanding the carbon metabolism of anammox bacteria at a systems-level and will inform future studies aimed at elucidating factors governing their function and niche differentiation in natural and engineered ecosystems.
(p)ppGpp is a highly conserved bacterial alarmone which regulates many aspects of cellular physiology and metabolism. In Gram-positive bacteria such as B. subtilis , cellular (p)ppGpp level is determined by the bifunctional (p)ppGpp synthetase/hydrolase RelA and two small alarmone synthetases (SASs) YjbM (SasB) and YwaC (SasA). However, it is less clear whether these enzymes are also involved in regulation of alarmones outside of (p)ppGpp. Here we developed an improved LC-MS-based method to detect a broad spectrum of metabolites and alarmones from bacterial cultures with high efficiency. By characterizing the metabolomic signatures of SasA expressing B. subtilis , we identified strong accumulation of the (p)ppGpp analog pGpp, as well as accumulation of ppApp and AppppA. The induced accumulation of these alarmones is abolished in the catalytically dead sasA mutant, suggesting that it is a consequence of SasA synthetase activity. In addition, we also identified depletion of specific purine nucleotides and their precursors including IMP precursors FGAR, SAICAR and AICAR (ZMP), as well as GTP and GDP. Furthermore, we also revealed depletion of multiple pyrimidine precursors such as orotate and orotidine 5'-phosphate. Taken together, our work shows that induction of a single (p)ppGpp synthetase can cause concomitant accumulation and potential regulatory interplay of multiple alarmones.
Clostridium thermocellum and Thermoanaerobacterium saccharolyticum were grown in cellobiose-limited chemostat cultures at a fixed dilution rate. C. thermocellum produced acetate, ethanol, formate, and lactate. Surprisingly, and in contrast to batch cultures, in cellobiose-limited chemostat cultures of T. saccharolyticum , ethanol was the main fermentation product. Enzyme assays confirmed that in C. thermocellum , glycolysis proceeds via pyrophosphate (PP)-dependent phosphofructokinase (PFK), pyruvate-phosphate dikinase (PPDK), as well as a malate shunt for the conversion of phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) to pyruvate. Pyruvate kinase activity was not detectable. In T. saccharolyticum , ATP but not PP served as cofactor for the PFK reaction. High activities of both pyruvate kinase and PPDK were present, whereas the activities of a malate shunt enzymes were low in T. saccharolyticum In C. thermocellum , glycolysis via PP-PFK and PPDK obeys the equation glucose + 5 NDP + 3 PP → 2 pyruvate + 5 NTP + P (where NDP is nucleoside diphosphate and NTP is nucleoside triphosphate). Metabolic flux analysis of chemostat data with the wild type and a deletion mutant of the proton-pumping pyrophosphatase showed that a PP-generating mechanism must be present that operates according to ATP + P → ADP + PP Both organisms also produced significant amounts of amino acids in cellobiose-limited cultures. It was anticipated that this phenomenon would be suppressed by growth under nitrogen limitation. Surprisingly, nitrogen-limited chemostat cultivation of wild-type C. thermocellum revealed a bottleneck in pyruvate oxidation, as large amounts of pyruvate and amino acids, mainly valine, were excreted; up to 50% of the nitrogen consumed was excreted again as amino acids. IMPORTANCE This study discusses the fate of pyrophosphate in the metabolism of two thermophilic anaerobes that lack a soluble irreversible pyrophosphatase as present in Escherichia coli but instead use a reversible membrane-bound proton-pumping enzyme. In such organisms, the charging of tRNA with amino acids may become more reversible. This may contribute to the observed excretion of amino acids during sugar fermentation by Clostridium thermocellum and Thermoanaerobacterium saccharolyticum Calculation of the energetic advantage of reversible pyrophosphate-dependent glycolysis, as occurs in Clostridium thermocellum , could not be properly evaluated, as currently available genome-scale models neglect the anabolic generation of pyrophosphate in, for example, polymerization of amino acids to protein. This anabolic pyrophosphate replaces ATP and thus saves energy. Its amount is, however, too small to cover the pyrophosphate requirement of sugar catabolism in glycolysis. Consequently, pyrophosphate for catabolism is generated according to ATP + P → ADP + PP.
The microbial production of chemicals and fuels from plant biomass offers a sustainable alternative to fossilized carbon but requires high rates and yields of bioproduct synthesis. Z. mobilis is a promising chassis microbe due to its high glycolytic rate in anaerobic conditions that are favorable for large-scale production. However, diverting flux from its robust ethanol fermentation pathway to nonnative pathways remains a major engineering hurdle. To enable controlled, high-yield synthesis of bioproducts, we implemented a central-carbon metabolism control-valve strategy using regulated, ectopic expression of pyruvate decarboxylase (Pdc) and deletion of chromosomal pdc. Metabolomic and genetic analyses revealed that glycolytic intermediates and NADH accumulate when Pdc is depleted and that Pdc is essential for anaerobic growth of Z. mobilis. Aerobically, all flux can be redirected to a 2,3-butanediol pathway for which respiration maintains redox balance. Anaerobically, flux can be redirected to redox-balanced lactate or isobutanol pathways with ≥65% overall yield from glucose. This strategy provides a promising path for future metabolic engineering of Z. mobilis.
We report aqueous emulsions of thermotropic liquid crystals (LCs) that can intercept and report on the presence of N -acyl-l-homoserine lactones (AHLs), a class of amphiphiles used by pathogenic bacteria to regulate quorum sensing (QS), monitor population densities, and initiate group activities, including biofilm formation and virulence factor production. The concentration of AHL required to promote "bipolar" to "radial" transitions in micrometer-scale droplets of the nematic LC 4'-pentyl-cyanobiphenyl (5CB) decreases with increasing carbon number in the acyl tail, reaching a threshold concentration of 7.1 μM for 3-oxo-C12-AHL, a native QS signal in the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa . The LC droplets in these emulsions also respond to biologically relevant concentrations of the biosurfactant rhamnolipid, a virulence factor produced by communities of P. aeruginosa under the control of QS. Systematic studies using bacterial mutants support the conclusion that these emulsions respond selectively to the production of rhamnolipid and AHLs and not to other products produced by bacteria at lower (subquorate) population densities. Finally, these emulsions remain configurationally stable in growth media, enabling them to be deployed either in bacterial supernatants or in situ in bacterial cultures to eavesdrop on QS and report on changes in bacterial group behavior that can be detected in real time using polarized light. Our results provide new tools to detect and report on bacterial QS and virulence and a materials platform for the rapid and in situ monitoring of bacterial communication and resulting group behaviors in bacterial communities.
Metabolite concentrations, fluxes, and free energies constitute the basis for understanding and controlling metabolism. Mass spectrometry and stable isotopes are integral tools in quantifying these metabolic features. For absolute metabolite concentration and flux measurement, C internal standards and tracers have been the gold standard. In contrast, no established methods exist for comprehensive thermodynamic quantitation under physiological environments. Recently, using high-resolution mass spectrometry and multi-isotope tracing, flux quantitation has been increasingly adopted in broader metabolism. The improved flux quantitation led to determination of Gibbs free energy of reaction (ΔG) in central carbon metabolism using a relationship between reaction reversibility and thermodynamic driving force. Here we highlight recent advances in multi-isotope tracing for metabolic flux and free energy analysis.
The obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii is auxotrophic for several key metabolites and must scavenge these from the host. It is unclear how T. gondii manipulates host metabolism to support its overall growth rate and non-essential metabolites. To investigate this question, we measured changes in the joint host-parasite metabolome over a time course of infection. Host and parasite transcriptomes were simultaneously generated to determine potential changes in expression of metabolic enzymes. T. gondii infection changed metabolite abundance in multiple metabolic pathways, including the tricarboxylic acid cycle, the pentose phosphate pathway, glycolysis, amino acid synthesis, and nucleotide metabolism. Our analysis indicated that changes in some pathways, such as the tricarboxylic acid cycle, were mirrored by changes in parasite transcription, while changes in others, like the pentose phosphate pathway, were paired with changes in both the host and parasite transcriptomes. Further experiments led to the discovery of a T. gondii enzyme, sedoheptulose bisphosphatase, which funnels carbon from glycolysis into the pentose phosphate pathway through an energetically driven dephosphorylation reaction. This additional route for ribose synthesis appears to resolve the conflict between the T. gondii tricarboxylic acid cycle and pentose phosphate pathway, which are both NADP+ dependent. Sedoheptulose bisphosphatase represents a novel step in T. gondii central carbon metabolism that allows T. gondii to energetically-drive ribose synthesis without using NADP+.
Clostridium thermocellum and Thermoanaerobacterium saccharolyticum are thermophilic anaerobic bacteria with complementary metabolic capabilities that utilize distinct glycolytic pathways for the conversion of cellulosic sugars to biofuels. We integrated quantitative metabolomics with H and C metabolic flux analysis to investigate the in vivo reversibility and thermodynamics of the central metabolic networks of these two microbes. We found that the glycolytic pathway in C. thermocellum operates remarkably close to thermodynamic equilibrium, with an overall drop in Gibbs free energy 5-fold lower than that of T. saccharolyticum or anaerobically grown Escherichia coli The limited thermodynamic driving force of glycolysis in C. thermocellum could be attributed in large part to the small free energy of the phosphofructokinase reaction producing fructose bisphosphate. The ethanol fermentation pathway was also substantially more reversible in C. thermocellum than in T. saccharolyticum These observations help explain the comparatively low ethanol titers of C. thermocellum and suggest engineering interventions that can be used to increase its ethanol productivity and glycolytic rate. In addition to thermodynamic analysis, we used our isotope tracer data to reconstruct the T. saccharolyticum central metabolic network, revealing exclusive use of the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) pathway for glycolysis, a bifurcated tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, and a sedoheptulose bisphosphate bypass active within the pentose phosphate pathway. IMPORTANCE Thermodynamics constitutes a key determinant of flux and enzyme efficiency in metabolic networks. Here, we provide new insights into the divergent thermodynamics of the glycolytic pathways of C. thermocellum and T. saccharolyticum , two industrially relevant thermophilic bacteria whose metabolism still is not well understood. We report that while the glycolytic pathway in T. saccharolyticum is as thermodynamically favorable as that found in model organisms, such as E. coli or Saccharomyces cerevisiae , the glycolytic pathway of C. thermocellum operates near equilibrium. The use of a near-equilibrium glycolytic pathway, with potentially increased ATP yield, by this cellulolytic microbe may represent an evolutionary adaptation to growth on cellulose, but it has the drawback of being highly susceptible to product feedback inhibition. The results of this study will facilitate future engineering of high-performance strains capable of transforming cellulosic biomass to biofuels at high yields and titers.
Engineering efforts targeted at increasing ethanol by modifying the central fermentative metabolism of Clostridium thermocellum have been variably successful. Here, we aim to understand this variation by a multifaceted approach including genomic and transcriptomic analysis combined with chemostat cultivation and high solids cellulose fermentation. Three strain lineages comprising 16 strains total were examined. Two strain lineages in which genes involved in pathways leading to organic acids and/or sporulation had been knocked out resulted in four end-strains after adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE). A third strain lineage recapitulated mutations involving adhE that occurred spontaneously in some of the engineered strains.
The genomes of most cellulolytic clostridia do not contain genes annotated as transaldolase. Therefore, for assimilating pentose sugars or for generating C precursors (such as ribose) during growth on other (non-C) substrates, they must possess a pathway that connects pentose metabolism with the rest of metabolism. Here we provide evidence that for this connection cellulolytic clostridia rely on the sedoheptulose 1,7-bisphosphate (SBP) pathway, using pyrophosphate-dependent phosphofructokinase (PP-PFK) instead of transaldolase. In this reversible pathway, PFK converts sedoheptulose 7-phosphate (S7P) to SBP, after which fructose-bisphosphate aldolase cleaves SBP into dihydroxyacetone phosphate and erythrose 4-phosphate. We show that PP-PFKs of Clostridium thermosuccinogenes and C lostridium thermocellum indeed can convert S7P to SBP, and have similar affinities for S7P and the canonical substrate fructose 6-phosphate (F6P). By contrast, (ATP-dependent) PfkA of Escherichia coli , which does rely on transaldolase, had a very poor affinity for S7P. This indicates that the PP-PFK of cellulolytic clostridia has evolved the use of S7P. We further show that C. thermosuccinogenes contains a significant SBP pool, an unusual metabolite that is elevated during growth on xylose, demonstrating its relevance for pentose assimilation. Last, we demonstrate that a second PFK of C. thermosuccinogenes that operates with ATP and GTP exhibits unusual kinetics toward F6P, as it appears to have an extremely high degree of cooperative binding, resulting in a virtual on/off switch for substrate concentrations near its K value. In summary, our results confirm the existence of an SBP pathway for pentose assimilation in cellulolytic clostridia.
Zymomonas mobilis is a bacterium that produces ethanol from glucose at up to 97% of theoretical efficiency on a carbon basis. One factor contributing to the high efficiency of ethanol production is that Z. mobilis has a low biomass yield. The low biomass yield may be caused partly by the low ATP yield of the Entner-Doudoroff (ED) glycolytic pathway used by Z. mobilis , which produces only one ATP per glucose consumed. To test the hypothesis that ATP yield limits biomass yield in Z. mobilis, we attempted to introduce the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) glycolytic pathway (with double the ATP yield) by expressing phosphofructokinase (Pfk I) from Escherichia coli. Expression of Pfk I caused growth inhibition and resulted in accumulation of mutations in the pfkA gene. Co-expression of additional EMP enzymes, fructose bisphosphate aldolase (Fba) and triose phosphate isomerase (Tpi), with Pfk I did not enable EMP flux, and resulted in production of glycerol as a side product. Further analysis indicated that heterologous reactions may have operated in the reverse direction because of native metabolite concentrations. This study reveals how the metabolomic context of a chassis organism influences the range of pathways that can be added by heterologous expression.
Protein phosphorylation is a post-translational modification with widespread regulatory roles in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Using mass spectrometry, we performed a genome wide investigation of protein phosphorylation in the non-model organism and biofuel producer Zymomonas mobilis under anaerobic, aerobic, and N-fixing conditions. Our phosphoproteome analysis revealed 125 unique phosphorylated proteins, belonging to major pathways such as glycolysis, TCA cycle, electron transport, nitrogen metabolism, and protein synthesis. Quantitative analysis revealed significant and widespread changes in protein phosphorylation across growth conditions. For example, we observed increased phosphorylation of nearly all glycolytic enzymes and a large fraction of ribosomal proteins during aerobic and N-fixing conditions. We also observed substantial changes in the phosphorylation status of enzymes and regulatory proteins involved in nitrogen fixation and ammonia assimilation during N-fixing conditions, including nitrogenase, the Rnf electron transport complex, the transcription factor NifA, GS-GOGAT cycle enzymes, and the P regulatory protein. This suggested that protein phosphorylation may play an important role at regulating all aspects of nitrogen metabolism in Z. mobilis . This study provides new knowledge regarding the specific pathways and cellular processes that may be regulated by protein phosphorylation in this important industrial organism and provides a useful road map for future experiments that investigate the physiological role of specific phosphorylation events in Z. mobilis .
Glycolysis plays a central role in producing ATP and biomass. Its control principles, however, remain incompletely understood. Here, we develop a method that combines H and C tracers to determine glycolytic thermodynamics. Using this method, we show that, in conditions and organisms with relatively slow fluxes, multiple steps in glycolysis are near to equilibrium, reflecting spare enzyme capacity. In Escherichia coli, nitrogen or phosphorus upshift rapidly increases the thermodynamic driving force, deploying the spare enzyme capacity to increase flux. Similarly, respiration inhibition in mammalian cells rapidly increases both glycolytic flux and the thermodynamic driving force. The thermodynamic shift allows flux to increase with only small metabolite concentration changes. Finally, we find that the cellulose-degrading anaerobe Clostridium cellulolyticum exhibits slow, near-equilibrium glycolysis due to the use of pyrophosphate rather than ATP for fructose-bisphosphate production, resulting in enhanced per-glucose ATP yield. Thus, near-equilibrium steps of glycolysis promote both rapid flux adaptation and energy efficiency.
The microbial communities that inhabit the distal gut of humans and other mammals exhibit large inter-individual variation. While host genetics is a known factor that influences gut microbiota composition, the mechanisms underlying this variation remain largely unknown. Bile acids (BAs) are hormones that are produced by the host and chemically modified by gut bacteria. BAs serve as environmental cues and nutrients to microbes, but they can also have antibacterial effects. We hypothesized that host genetic variation in BA metabolism and homeostasis influence gut microbiota composition. To address this, we used the Diversity Outbred (DO) stock, a population of genetically distinct mice derived from eight founder strains. We characterized the fecal microbiota composition and plasma and cecal BA profiles from 400 DO mice maintained on a high-fat high-sucrose diet for ~22 weeks. Using quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis, we identified several genomic regions associated with variations in both bacterial and BA profiles. Notably, we found overlapping QTL for Turicibacter sp. and plasma cholic acid, which mapped to a locus containing the gene for the ileal bile acid transporter, Slc10a2. Mediation analysis and subsequent follow-up validation experiments suggest that differences in Slc10a2 gene expression associated with the different strains influences levels of both traits and revealed novel interactions between Turicibacter and BAs. This work illustrates how systems genetics can be utilized to generate testable hypotheses and provide insight into host-microbe interactions.
Clostridium thermocellum is a candidate for consolidated bioprocessing by carrying out both cellulose solubilization and fermentation. However, despite significant efforts the maximum ethanol titer achieved to date remains below industrially required targets. Several studies have analyzed the impact of increasing ethanol concentration on C. thermocellum's membrane properties, cofactor pool ratios, and altered enzyme regulation. In this study, we explore the extent to which thermodynamic equilibrium limits maximum ethanol titer. We used the max-min driving force (MDF) algorithm (Noor et al., 2014) to identify the range of allowable metabolite concentrations that maintain a negative free energy change for all reaction steps in the pathway from cellobiose to ethanol. To this end, we used a time-series metabolite concentration dataset to flag five reactions (phosphofructokinase (PFK), fructose bisphosphate aldolase (FBA), glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) and alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)) which become thermodynamic bottlenecks under high external ethanol concentrations. Thermodynamic analysis was also deployed in a prospective mode to evaluate genetic interventions which can improve pathway thermodynamics by generating minimal set of reactions or elementary flux modes (EFMs) which possess unique genetic variations while ensuring mass and redox balance with ethanol production. MDF evaluation of all generated (336) EFMs indicated that, i) pyruvate phosphate dikinase (PPDK) has a higher pathway MDF than the malate shunt alternative due to limiting CO concentrations under physiological conditions, and ii) NADPH-dependent glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPN) can alleviate thermodynamic bottlenecks at high ethanol concentrations due to cofactor modification and reduction in ATP generation. The combination of ATP linked phosphofructokinase (PFK-ATP) and NADPH linked alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH-NADPH) with NADPH linked aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH-NADPH) or ferredoxin: NADP + oxidoreductase (NADPH-FNOR) emerges as the best intervention strategy for ethanol production that balances MDF improvements with ATP generation, and appears to functionally reproduce the pathway employed by the ethanologen Thermoanaerobacterium saccharolyticum. Expanding the list of measured intracellular metabolites and improving the quantification accuracy of measurements was found to improve the fidelity of pathway thermodynamics analysis in C. thermocellum. This study demonstrates even before addressing an organism's enzyme kinetics and allosteric regulations, pathway thermodynamics can flag pathway bottlenecks and identify testable strategies for enhancing pathway thermodynamic feasibility and function.
Soil-dwelling fungal species possess the versatile metabolic capability to degrade complex organic compounds that are toxic to humans, yet the mechanisms they employ remain largely unknown. Benzo[ a ]pyrene (BaP) is a pervasive carcinogenic contaminant, posing a significant concern for human health. Here, we report that several Aspergillus species are capable of degrading BaP. Exposing Aspergillus nidulans cells to BaP results in transcriptomic and metabolic changes associated with cellular growth and energy generation, implying that the fungus utilizes BaP as a growth substrate. Importantly, we identify and characterize the conserved bapA gene encoding a cytochrome P450 monooxygenase that is necessary for the metabolic utilization of BaP in Aspergillus We further demonstrate that the fungal NF-κB-type velvet regulators VeA and VelB are required for proper expression of bapA in response to nutrient limitation and BaP degradation in A. nidulans Our study illuminates fundamental knowledge of fungal BaP metabolism and provides novel insights into enhancing bioremediation potential. IMPORTANCE We are increasingly exposed to environmental pollutants, including the carcinogen benzo[ a ]pyrene (BaP), which has prompted extensive research into human metabolism of toxicants. However, little is known about metabolic mechanisms employed by fungi that are able to use some toxic pollutants as the substrates for growth, leaving innocuous by-products. This study systemically demonstrates that a common soil-dwelling fungus is able to use benzo[ a ]pyrene as food, which results in expression and metabolic changes associated with growth and energy generation. Importantly, this study reveals key components of the metabolic utilization of BaP, notably a cytochrome P450 monooxygenase and the fungal NF-κB-type transcriptional regulators. Our study advances fundamental knowledge of fungal BaP metabolism and provides novel insight into designing and implementing enhanced bioremediation strategies.
Biofilms are structured communities of tightly associated cells that constitute the predominant state of bacterial growth in natural and human-made environments. Although the core genetic circuitry that controls biofilm formation in model bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis has been well characterized, little is known about the role that metabolism plays in this complex developmental process. Here, we performed a time-resolved analysis of the metabolic changes associated with pellicle biofilm formation and development in B. subtilis by combining metabolomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic analyses. We report surprisingly widespread and dynamic remodeling of metabolism affecting central carbon metabolism, primary biosynthetic pathways, fermentation pathways, and secondary metabolism. Most of these metabolic alterations were hitherto unrecognized as biofilm associated. For example, we observed increased activity of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle during early biofilm growth, a shift from fatty acid biosynthesis to fatty acid degradation, reorganization of iron metabolism and transport, and a switch from acetate to acetoin fermentation. Close agreement between metabolomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic measurements indicated that remodeling of metabolism during biofilm development was largely controlled at the transcriptional level. Our results also provide insights into the transcription factors and regulatory networks involved in this complex metabolic remodeling. Following upon these results, we demonstrated that acetoin production via acetolactate synthase is essential for robust biofilm growth and has the dual role of conserving redox balance and maintaining extracellular pH. This report represents a comprehensive systems-level investigation of the metabolic remodeling occurring during B. subtilis biofilm development that will serve as a useful road map for future studies on biofilm physiology. IMPORTANCE Bacterial biofilms are ubiquitous in natural environments and play an important role in many clinical, industrial, and ecological settings. Although much is known about the transcriptional regulatory networks that control biofilm formation in model bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis , very little is known about the role of metabolism in this complex developmental process. To address this important knowledge gap, we performed a time-resolved analysis of the metabolic changes associated with bacterial biofilm development in B. subtilis by combining metabolomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic analyses. Here, we report a widespread and dynamic remodeling of metabolism affecting central carbon metabolism, primary biosynthetic pathways, fermentation pathways, and secondary metabolism. This report serves as a unique hypothesis-generating resource for future studies on bacterial biofilm physiology. Outside the biofilm research area, this work should also prove relevant to any investigators interested in microbial physiology and metabolism.
Caldicellulosiruptor bescii is an extremely thermophilic, cellulolytic bacterium with a growth optimum at 78 °C and is the most thermophilic cellulose degrader known. It is an attractive target for biotechnological applications, but metabolic engineering will require an in-depth understanding of its primary pathways. A previous analysis of its genome uncovered evidence that C. bescii may have a completely uncharacterized aspect to its redox metabolism, involving a tungsten-containing oxidoreductase of unknown function. Herein, we purified and characterized this new member of the aldehyde ferredoxin oxidoreductase family of tungstoenzymes. We show that it is a heterodimeric glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (GAP) ferredoxin oxidoreductase (GOR) present not only in all known Caldicellulosiruptor species, but also in 44 mostly anaerobic bacterial genera. GOR is phylogenetically distinct from the monomeric GAP-oxidizing enzyme found previously in several Archaea. We found that its large subunit (GOR-L) contains a single tungstopterin site and one iron-sulfur [4Fe-4S] cluster, that the small subunit (GOR-S) contains four [4Fe-4S] clusters, and that GOR uses ferredoxin as an electron acceptor. Deletion of either subunit resulted in a distinct growth phenotype on both C and C sugars, with an increased lag phase, but higher cell densities. Using metabolomics and kinetic analyses, we show that GOR functions in parallel with the conventional GAP dehydrogenase, providing an alternative ferredoxin-dependent glycolytic pathway. These two pathways likely facilitate the recycling of reduced redox carriers (NADH and ferredoxin) in response to environmental H concentrations. This metabolic flexibility has important implications for the future engineering of this and related species.
Zymomonas mobilis is an industrially relevant bacterium notable for its ability to rapidly ferment simple sugars to ethanol using the Entner-Doudoroff (ED) glycolytic pathway, an alternative to the well-known Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) pathway used by most organisms. Recent computational studies have predicted that the ED pathway is substantially more thermodynamically favorable than the EMP pathway, a potential factor explaining the high glycolytic rate in Z. mobilis. Here, to investigate the in vivo thermodynamics of the ED pathway and central carbon metabolism in Z. mobilis, we implemented a network-level approach that integrates quantitative metabolomics with H and C metabolic flux analysis to estimate reversibility and Gibbs free energy (ΔG) of metabolic reactions. This analysis revealed a strongly thermodynamically favorable ED pathway in Z. mobilis that is nearly twice as favorable as the EMP pathway in E. coli or S. cerevisiae. The in vivo step-by-step thermodynamic profile of the ED pathway was highly similar to previous in silico predictions, indicating that maximizing ΔG for each pathway step likely constitutes a cellular objective in Z. mobilis. Our analysis also revealed novel features of Z. mobilis metabolism, including phosphofructokinase-like enzyme activity, tricarboxylic acid cycle anaplerosis via PEP carboxylase, and a metabolic imbalance in the pentose phosphate pathway resulting in excretion of shikimate pathway intermediates. The integrated approach we present here for in vivo ΔG quantitation may be applied to the thermodynamic profiling of pathways and metabolic networks in other microorganisms and will contribute to the development of quantitative models of metabolism.
Zymomonas mobilis is an aerotolerant anaerobe and prolific ethanologen with attractive characteristics for industrial bioproduct generation. However, there is currently insufficient knowledge of the impact that environmental factors have on flux through industrially relevant biosynthetic pathways. Here, we examined the effect of oxygen exposure on metabolism and gene expression in Z. mobilis by combining targeted metabolomics, mRNA sequencing, and shotgun proteomics. We found that exposure to oxygen profoundly influenced metabolism, inducing both transient metabolic bottlenecks and long-term metabolic remodeling. In particular, oxygen induced a severe but temporary metabolic bottleneck in the methyl erythritol 4-phosphate pathway for isoprenoid biosynthesis caused by oxidative damage to the iron-sulfur cofactors of the final two enzymes in the pathway. This bottleneck was resolved with minimal changes in expression of isoprenoid biosynthetic enzymes. Instead, it was associated with pronounced upregulation of enzymes related to iron-sulfur cluster maintenance and biogenesis (i.e., flavodoxin reductase and the suf operon). We also detected major changes in glucose utilization in the presence of oxygen. Specifically, we observed increased gluconate production following exposure to oxygen, accounting for 18% of glucose uptake. Our results suggest that under aerobic conditions, electrons derived from the oxidation of glucose to gluconate are diverted to the electron transport chain, where they can minimize oxidative damage by reducing reactive oxygen species such as HO. This model is supported by the simultaneous upregulation of three membrane-bound dehydrogenases, cytochrome c peroxidase, and a cytochrome bd oxidase following exposure to oxygen. IMPORTANCE Microbially generated biofuels and bioproducts have the potential to provide a more environmentally sustainable alternative to fossil-fuel-derived products. In particular, isoprenoids, a diverse class of natural products, are chemically suitable for use as high-grade transport fuels and other commodity molecules. However, metabolic engineering for increased production of isoprenoids and other bioproducts is limited by an incomplete understanding of factors that control flux through biosynthetic pathways. Here, we examined the native regulation of the isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway in the biofuel producer Zymomonas mobilis. We leveraged oxygen exposure as a means to perturb carbon flux, allowing us to observe the formation and resolution of a metabolic bottleneck in the pathway. Our multi-omics analysis of this perturbation enabled us to identify key auxiliary enzymes whose expression correlates with increased production of isoprenoid precursors, which we propose as potential targets for future metabolic engineering.
Efficient microbial production of the next-generation biofuel isobutanol (IBA) is limited by metabolic bottlenecks. Overcoming these bottlenecks will be aided by knowing the optimal ratio of enzymes for efficient flux through the IBA biosynthetic pathway. OptSSeq (Optimization by Selection and Sequencing) accomplishes this goal by tracking growth rate-linked selection of optimal expression elements from a combinatorial library. The 5-step pathway to IBA consists of Acetolactate synthase (AlsS), Keto-acid reductoisomerase (KARI), Di-hydroxy acid dehydratase (DHAD), Ketoisovalerate decarboxylase (Kivd) and Alcohol dehydrogenase (Adh). Using OptSSeq, we identified gene expression elements leading to optimal enzyme levels that enabled theoretically maximal productivities per cell biomass in Escherichia coli. We identified KARI as the rate-limiting step, requiring the highest levels of enzymes expression, followed by AlsS and AdhA. DHAD and Kivd required relatively lower levels of expression for optimal IBA production. OptSSeq also enabled the identification of an Adh enzyme variant capable of an improved rate of IBA production. Using models that predict impacts of enzyme synthesis costs on cellular growth rates, we found that optimum levels of pathway enzymes led to maximal IBA production, and that additional limitations lie in the E. coli metabolic network. Our optimized constructs enabled the production of ~3 g IBA per hour per gram dry cell weight and was achieved with 20 % of the total cell protein devoted to IBA-pathway enzymes in the molar ratio 2.5:6.7:2:1:5.2 (AlsS:IlvC:IlvD:Kivd:AdhA). These enzyme levels and ratios optimal for IBA production in E. coli provide a useful starting point for optimizing production of IBA in diverse microbes and fermentation conditions.
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N-acyl L-homoserine lactones (AHLs) constitute a predominant class of quorum-sensing signaling molecules used by Gram-negative bacteria. Here, we report a sensitive and non-targeted HPLC-MS/MS method based on parallel reaction monitoring (PRM) to identify and quantitate known, unanticipated, and novel AHLs in microbial samples. Using a hybrid quadrupole-high resolution mass analyzer, this method integrates MS scans and all-ion fragmentation MS/MS scans to allow simultaneous detection of AHL parent-ion masses and generation of full mass spectra at high resolution and high mass accuracy in a single chromatographic run. We applied this method to screen for AHL production in a variety of Gram-negative bacteria (i.e. B. cepacia, E. tarda, E. carotovora, E. herbicola, P. stewartii, P. aeruginosa, P. aureofaciens, and R. sphaeroides) and discovered that nearly all of them produce a larger set of AHLs than previously reported. Furthermore, we identified production of an uncommon AHL (i.e. 3-oxo-C7-HL) in E. carotovora and P. stewartii, whose production has only been previously observed within the genera Serratia and Yersinia. Finally, we used our method to quantitate AHL degradation in B. cepacia, E. carotovora, E. herbicola, P. stewartii, P. aeruginosa, P. aureofaciens, the non-AHL producer E. coli, and the Gram-positive bacterium B. subtilis. We found that AHL degradation ability varies widely across these microbes, of which B. subtilis and E. carotovora are the best degraders, and observed that there is a general trend for AHLs containing long acyl chains (≥10 carbons) to be degraded at faster rates than AHLs with short acyl chains (≤6 carbons).
In metabolism, available free energy is limited and must be divided across pathway steps to maintain a negative ΔG throughout. For each reaction, ΔG is log proportional both to a concentration ratio (reaction quotient to equilibrium constant) and to a flux ratio (backward to forward flux). Here we use isotope labeling to measure absolute metabolite concentrations and fluxes in Escherichia coli, yeast and a mammalian cell line. We then integrate this information to obtain a unified set of concentrations and ΔG for each organism. In glycolysis, we find that free energy is partitioned so as to mitigate unproductive backward fluxes associated with ΔG near zero. Across metabolism, we observe that absolute metabolite concentrations and ΔG are substantially conserved and that most substrate (but not inhibitor) concentrations exceed the associated enzyme binding site dissociation constant (Km or Ki). The observed conservation of metabolite concentrations is consistent with an evolutionary drive to utilize enzymes efficiently given thermodynamic and osmotic constraints.
NADH:quinone oxidoreductase (complex I) is a bioenergetic enzyme that transfers electrons from NADH to quinone, conserving the energy of this reaction by contributing to the proton motive force. While the importance of NADH oxidation to mitochondrial aerobic respiration is well documented, the contribution of complex I to bacterial electron transport chains has been tested in only a few species. Here, we analyze the function of two phylogenetically distinct complex I isozymes in Rhodobacter sphaeroides, an alphaproteobacterium that contains well-characterized electron transport chains. We found that R. sphaeroides complex I activity is important for aerobic respiration and required for anaerobic dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) respiration (in the absence of light), photoautotrophic growth, and photoheterotrophic growth (in the absence of an external electron acceptor). Our data also provide insight into the functions of the phylogenetically distinct R. sphaeroidescomplex I enzymes (complex IA and complex IE) in maintaining a cellular redox state during photoheterotrophic growth. We propose that the function of each isozyme during photoheterotrophic growth is either NADH synthesis (complex IA) or NADH oxidation (complex IE). The canonical alphaproteobacterial complex I isozyme (complex IA) was also shown to be important for routing electrons to nitrogenase-mediated H2 production, while the horizontally acquired enzyme (complex IE) was dispensable in this process. Unlike the singular role of complex I in mitochondria, we predict that the phylogenetically distinct complex I enzymes found across bacterial species have evolved to enhance the functions of their respective electron transport chains. Cells use a proton motive force (PMF), NADH, and ATP to support numerous processes. In mitochondria, complex I uses NADH oxidation to generate a PMF, which can drive ATP synthesis. This study analyzed the function of complex I in bacteria, which contain more-diverse and more-flexible electron transport chains than mitochondria. We tested complex I function in Rhodobacter sphaeroides, a bacterium predicted to encode two phylogenetically distinct complex I isozymes. R. sphaeroides cells lacking both isozymes had growth defects during all tested modes of growth, illustrating the important function of this enzyme under diverse conditions. We conclude that the two isozymes are not functionally redundant and predict that phylogenetically distinct complex I enzymes have evolved to support the diverse lifestyles of bacteria.
Small peptides formed from non-ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS) are bioactive molecules produced by many fungi including the genus Aspergillus. A subset of NRPS utilizes tryptophan and its precursor, the non-proteinogenic amino acid anthranilate, in synthesis of various metabolites such as Aspergillus fumigatus fumiquinazolines (Fqs) produced by the fmq gene cluster. The A. fumigatus genome contains two putative anthranilate synthases - a key enzyme in conversion of anthranilic acid to tryptophan - one beside the fmq cluster and one in a region of co-linearity with other Aspergillus spp. Only the gene found in the co-linear region, trpE, was involved in tryptophan biosynthesis. We found that site-specific mutations of the TrpE feedback domain resulted in significantly increased production of anthranilate, tryptophan, p-aminobenzoate and fumiquinazolines FqF and FqC. Supplementation with tryptophan restored metabolism to near wild type levels in the feedback mutants and suggested that synthesis of the tryptophan degradation product kynurenine could negatively impact Fq synthesis. The second putative anthranilate synthase gene next to the fmq cluster was termed icsA for its considerable identity to isochorismate synthases in bacteria. Although icsA had no impact on A. fumigatus Fq production, deletion and over-expression of icsA increased and decreased respectively aromatic amino acid levels suggesting that IcsA can draw from the cellular chorismate pool.
An outstanding challenge toward efficient production of biofuels and value-added chemicals from plant biomass is the impact that lignocellulose-derived inhibitors have on microbial fermentations. Elucidating the mechanisms that underlie their toxicity is critical for developing strategies to overcome them. Here, using Escherichia coli as a model system, we investigated the metabolic effects and toxicity mechanisms of feruloyl amide and coumaroyl amide, the predominant phenolic compounds in ammonia-pretreated biomass hydrolysates. Using metabolomics, isotope tracers, and biochemical assays, we showed that these two phenolic amides act as potent and fast-acting inhibitors of purine and pyrimidine biosynthetic pathways. Feruloyl or coumaroyl amide exposure leads to (i) a rapid buildup of 5-phosphoribosyl-1-pyrophosphate (PRPP), a key precursor in nucleotide biosynthesis, (ii) a rapid decrease in the levels of pyrimidine biosynthetic intermediates, and (iii) a long-term generalized decrease in nucleotide and deoxynucleotide levels. Tracer experiments using (13)C-labeled sugars and [(15)N]ammonia demonstrated that carbon and nitrogen fluxes into nucleotides and deoxynucleotides are inhibited by these phenolic amides. We found that these effects are mediated via direct inhibition of glutamine amidotransferases that participate in nucleotide biosynthetic pathways. In particular, feruloyl amide is a competitive inhibitor of glutamine PRPP amidotransferase (PurF), which catalyzes the first committed step in de novo purine biosynthesis. Finally, external nucleoside supplementation prevents phenolic amide-mediated growth inhibition by allowing nucleotide biosynthesis via salvage pathways. The results presented here will help in the development of strategies to overcome toxicity of phenolic compounds and facilitate engineering of more efficient microbial producers of biofuels and chemicals.
In order to survive and compete in natural settings, bacteria must excel at quickly adapting their metabolism to fluctuations in nutrient availability and other environmental variables. This necessitates fast-acting post-translational regulatory mechanisms, that is, allostery or covalent modification, to control metabolic flux. While allosteric regulation has long been a well-established strategy for regulating metabolic enzyme activity in bacteria, covalent post-translational modes of regulation, such as phosphorylation or acetylation, have previously been regarded as regulatory mechanisms employed primarily by eukaryotic organisms. Recent findings, however, have shifted this perception and point to a widespread role for covalent posttranslational modification in the regulation of metabolic enzymes and fluxes in bacteria. This review provides an outline of the exciting recent advances in this area.
Choline is a water-soluble nutrient essential for human life. Gut microbial metabolism of choline results in the production of trimethylamine (TMA), which upon absorption by the host is converted in the liver to trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). Recent studies revealed that TMAO exacerbates atherosclerosis in mice and positively correlates with the severity of this disease in humans. However, which microbes contribute to TMA production in the human gut, the extent to which host factors (e.g., genotype) and diet affect TMA production and colonization of these microbes, and the effects TMA-producing microbes have on the bioavailability of dietary choline remain largely unknown. We screened a collection of 79 sequenced human intestinal isolates encompassing the major phyla found in the human gut and identified nine strains capable of producing TMA from choline in vitro. Gnotobiotic mouse studies showed that TMAO accumulates in the serum of animals colonized with TMA-producing species, but not in the serum of animals colonized with intestinal isolates that do not generate TMA from choline in vitro. Remarkably, low levels of colonization by TMA-producing bacteria significantly reduced choline levels available to the host. This effect was more pronounced as the abundance of TMA-producing bacteria increased. Our findings provide a framework for designing strategies aimed at changing the representation or activity of TMA-producing bacteria in the human gut and suggest that the TMA-producing status of the gut microbiota should be considered when making recommendations about choline intake requirements for humans. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, and increased trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) levels have been causally linked with CVD development. This work identifies members of the human gut microbiota responsible for both the accumulation of trimethylamine (TMA), the precursor of the proatherogenic compound TMAO, and subsequent decreased choline bioavailability to the host. Understanding how to manipulate the representation and function of choline-consuming, TMA-producing species in the intestinal microbiota could potentially lead to novel means for preventing or treating atherosclerosis and choline deficiency-associated diseases.
Salmonella enterica is a member of the plant microbiome. Growth of S. enterica in sprouting-seed exudates is rapid; however, the active metabolic networks essential in this environment are unknown. To examine the metabolic requirements of S. enterica during growth in sprouting-seed exudates, we inoculated alfalfa seeds and identified 305 S. enterica proteins extracted 24 h postinoculation from planktonic cells. Over half the proteins had known metabolic functions, and they are involved in over one-quarter of the known metabolic reactions. Ion and metabolite transport accounted for the majority of detected reactions. Proteins involved in amino acid transport and metabolism were highly represented, suggesting that amino acid metabolic networks may be important for S. enterica growth in association with roots. Amino acid auxotroph growth phenotypes agreed with the proteomic data; auxotrophs in amino acid-biosynthetic pathways that were detected in our screen developed growth defects by 48 h. When the perceived sufficiency of each amino acid was expressed as a ratio of the calculated biomass requirement to the available concentration and compared to growth of each amino acid auxotroph, a correlation between nutrient availability and bacterial growth was found. Furthermore, glutamate transport acted as a fitness factor during S. enterica growth in association with roots. Collectively, these data suggest that S. enterica metabolism is robust in the germinating-alfalfa environment; that single-amino-acid metabolic pathways are important but not essential; and that targeting central metabolic networks, rather than dedicated pathways, may be necessary to achieve dramatic impacts on bacterial growth.
The nucleotide (p)ppGpp mediates bacterial stress responses, but its targets and underlying mechanisms of action vary among bacterial species and remain incompletely understood. Here, we characterize the molecular interaction between (p)ppGpp and guanylate kinase (GMK), revealing the importance of this interaction in adaptation to starvation. Combining structural and kinetic analyses, we show that (p)ppGpp binds the GMK active site and competitively inhibits the enzyme. The (p)ppGpp-GMK interaction prevents the conversion of GMP to GDP, resulting in GMP accumulation upon amino acid downshift. Abolishing this interaction leads to excess (p)ppGpp and defective adaptation to amino acid starvation. A survey of GMKs from phylogenetically diverse bacteria shows that the (p)ppGpp-GMK interaction is conserved in members of Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, and Deinococcus-Thermus, but not in Proteobacteria, where (p)ppGpp regulates RNA polymerase (RNAP). We propose that GMK is an ancestral (p)ppGpp target and RNAP evolved more recently as a direct target in Proteobacteria.
Clostridium thermocellum is a model thermophilic organism for the production of biofuels from lignocellulosic substrates. The majority of publications studying the physiology of this organism use substrate concentrations of ≤10 g/L. However, industrially relevant concentrations of substrate start at 100 g/L carbohydrate, which corresponds to approximately 150 g/L solids. To gain insight into the physiology of fermentation of high substrate concentrations, we studied the growth on, and utilization of high concentrations of crystalline cellulose varying from 50 to 100 g/L by C. thermocellum. Using a defined medium, batch cultures of C. thermocellum achieved 93% conversion of cellulose (Avicel) initially present at 100 g/L. The maximum rate of substrate utilization increased with increasing substrate loading. During fermentation of 100 g/L cellulose, growth ceased when about half of the substrate had been solubilized. However, fermentation continued in an uncoupled mode until substrate utilization was almost complete. In addition to commonly reported fermentation products, amino acids - predominantly L-valine and L-alanine - were secreted at concentrations up to 7.5 g/L. Uncoupled metabolism was also accompanied by products not documented previously for C. thermocellum, including isobutanol, meso- and RR/SS-2,3-butanediol and trace amounts of 3-methyl-1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol and 1-propanol. We hypothesize that C. thermocellum uses overflow metabolism to balance its metabolism around the pyruvate node in glycolysis. C. thermocellum is able to utilize industrially relevant concentrations of cellulose, up to 93 g/L. We report here one of the highest degrees of crystalline cellulose utilization observed thus far for a pure culture of C. thermocellum, the highest maximum substrate utilization rate and the highest amount of isobutanol produced by a wild-type organism.
Acetylation of lysine ϵ-amino groups influences many cellular processes and has been mapped to thousands of sites across many organisms. Stoichiometric information of acetylation is essential to accurately interpret biological significance. Here, we developed and employed a novel method for directly quantifying stoichiometry of site-specific acetylation in the entire proteome of Escherichia coli. By coupling isotopic labeling and a novel pairing algorithm, our approach performs an in silico enrichment of acetyl peptides, circumventing the need for immunoenrichment. We investigated the function of the sole NAD(+)-dependent protein deacetylase, CobB, on both site-specific and global acetylation. We quantified 2206 peptides from 899 proteins and observed a wide distribution of acetyl stoichiometry, ranging from less than 1% up to 98%. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that metabolic enzymes, which either utilize or generate acetyl-CoA, and proteins involved in transcriptional and translational processes displayed the highest degree of acetylation. Loss of CobB led to increased global acetylation at low stoichiometry sites and induced site-specific changes at high stoichiometry sites, and biochemical analysis revealed altered acetyl-CoA metabolism. Thus, this study demonstrates that sirtuin deacetylase deficiency leads to both site-specific and global changes in protein acetylation stoichiometry, affecting central metabolism.
Steady-state metabolite concentrations in a microorganism typically span several orders of magnitude. The underlying principles governing these concentrations remain poorly understood. Here, we hypothesize that observed variation can be explained in terms of a compromise between factors that favor minimizing metabolite pool sizes (e.g. limited solvent capacity) and the need to effectively utilize existing enzymes. The latter requires adequate thermodynamic driving force in metabolic reactions so that forward flux substantially exceeds reverse flux. To test this hypothesis, we developed a method, metabolic tug-of-war (mTOW), which computes steady-state metabolite concentrations in microorganisms on a genome-scale. mTOW is shown to explain up to 55% of the observed variation in measured metabolite concentrations in E. coli and C. acetobutylicum across various growth media. Our approach, based strictly on first thermodynamic principles, is the first method that successfully predicts high-throughput metabolite concentration data in bacteria across conditions.
Anapleurosis is the filling of the tricarboxylic acid cycle with four-carbon units. The common substrate for both anapleurosis and glucose phosphorylation in bacteria is the terminal glycolytic metabolite phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP). Here we show that Escherichia coli quickly and almost completely turns off PEP consumption upon glucose removal. The resulting buildup of PEP is used to quickly import glucose if it becomes available again. The switch-like termination of anapleurosis results from depletion of fructose-1,6-bisphosphate (FBP), an ultrasensitive allosteric activator of PEP carboxylase. E. coli expressing an FBP-insensitive point mutant of PEP carboxylase grow normally when glucose is steadily available. However, they fail to build up PEP upon glucose removal, grow poorly when glucose availability oscillates and suffer from futile cycling at the PEP node on gluconeogenic substrates. Thus, bacterial central carbon metabolism is intrinsically programmed with ultrasensitive allosteric regulation to enable rapid adaptation to changing environmental conditions.
The fermentation carried out by the biofuel producer Clostridium acetobutylicum is characterized by two distinct phases. Acidogenesis occurs during exponential growth and involves the rapid production of acids (acetate and butyrate). Solventogenesis initiates as cell growth slows down and involves the production of solvents (butanol, acetone, and ethanol). Using metabolomics, isotope tracers, and quantitative flux modeling, we have mapped the metabolic changes associated with the acidogenic-solventogenic transition. We observed a remarkably ordered series of metabolite concentration changes, involving almost all of the 114 measured metabolites, as the fermentation progresses from acidogenesis to solventogenesis. The intracellular levels of highly abundant amino acids and upper glycolytic intermediates decrease sharply during this transition. NAD(P)H and nucleotide triphosphates levels also decrease during solventogenesis, while low-energy nucleotides accumulate. These changes in metabolite concentrations are accompanied by large changes in intracellular metabolic fluxes. During solventogenesis, carbon flux into amino acids, as well as flux from pyruvate (the last metabolite in glycolysis) into oxaloacetate, decreases by more than 10-fold. This redirects carbon into acetyl coenzyme A, which cascades into solventogenesis. In addition, the electron-consuming reductive tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle is shutdown, while the electron-producing oxidative (clockwise) right side of the TCA cycle remains active. Thus, the solventogenic transition involves global remodeling of metabolism to redirect resources (carbon and reducing power) from biomass production into solvent production.
Proliferating cells, including cancer cells, require altered metabolism to efficiently incorporate nutrients such as glucose into biomass. The M2 isoform of pyruvate kinase (PKM2) promotes the metabolism of glucose by aerobic glycolysis and contributes to anabolic metabolism. Paradoxically, decreased pyruvate kinase enzyme activity accompanies the expression of PKM2 in rapidly dividing cancer cells and tissues. We demonstrate that phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP), the substrate for pyruvate kinase in cells, can act as a phosphate donor in mammalian cells because PEP participates in the phosphorylation of the glycolytic enzyme phosphoglycerate mutase (PGAM1) in PKM2-expressing cells. We used mass spectrometry to show that the phosphate from PEP is transferred to the catalytic histidine (His11) on human PGAM1. This reaction occurred at physiological concentrations of PEP and produced pyruvate in the absence of PKM2 activity. The presence of histidine-phosphorylated PGAM1 correlated with the expression of PKM2 in cancer cell lines and tumor tissues. Thus, decreased pyruvate kinase activity in PKM2-expressing cells allows PEP-dependent histidine phosphorylation of PGAM1 and may provide an alternate glycolytic pathway that decouples adenosine triphosphate production from PEP-mediated phosphotransfer, allowing for the high rate of glycolysis to support the anabolic metabolism observed in many proliferating cells.
Obligatory anaerobic bacteria are major contributors to the overall metabolism of soil and the human gut. The metabolic pathways of these bacteria remain, however, poorly understood. Using isotope tracers, mass spectrometry, and quantitative flux modeling, here we directly map the metabolic pathways of Clostridium acetobutylicum, a soil bacterium whose major fermentation products include the biofuels butanol and hydrogen. While genome annotation suggests the absence of most tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle enzymes, our results demonstrate that this bacterium has a complete, albeit bifurcated, TCA cycle; oxaloacetate flows to succinate both through citrate/alpha-ketoglutarate and via malate/fumarate. Our investigations also yielded insights into the pathways utilized for glucose catabolism and amino acid biosynthesis and revealed that the organism's one-carbon metabolism is distinct from that of model microbes, involving reversible pyruvate decarboxylation and the use of pyruvate as the one-carbon donor for biosynthetic reactions. This study represents the first in vivo characterization of the TCA cycle and central metabolism of C. acetobutylicum. Our results establish a role for the full TCA cycle in an obligatory anaerobic organism and demonstrate the importance of complementing genome annotation with isotope tracer studies for determining the metabolic pathways of diverse microbes.
We present a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) method that capitalizes on the mass-resolving power of the orbitrap to enable sensitive and specific measurement of known and unanticipated metabolites in parallel, with a focus on water-soluble species involved in core metabolism. The reversed phase LC method, with a cycle time 25 min, involves a water-methanol gradient on a C18 column with tributylamine as the ion pairing agent. The MS portion involves full scans from 85 to 1000 m/z at 1 Hz and 100,000 resolution in negative ion mode on a stand alone orbitrap ("Exactive"). The median limit of detection, across 80 metabolite standards, was 5 ng/mL with the linear range typically >or=100-fold. For both standards and a cellular extract from Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Baker's yeast), the median inter-run relative standard deviation in peak intensity was 8%. In yeast exact, we detected 137 known compounds, whose (13)C-labeling patterns could also be tracked to probe metabolic flux. In yeast engineered to lack a gene of unknown function (YKL215C), we observed accumulation of an ion of m/z 128.0351, which we subsequently confirmed to be oxoproline, resulting in annotation of YKL215C as an oxoprolinase. These examples demonstrate the suitability of the present method for quantitative metabolomics, fluxomics, and discovery metabolite profiling.
We studied cardiac function in young and old, wild-type (WT), and longer-living Little mice using cardiac flow velocities, echocardiographic measurements, and left ventricular (LV) pressure (P) to determine if enhanced reserves were in part responsible for longevity in these mice. Resting/baseline cardiac function, as measured by velocities, LV dimensions, +dP/dt(max), and -dP/dt(max), was significantly lower in young Little mice versus young WT mice. Fractional shortening (FS) increased significantly, and neither +dP/dt(max) nor -dP/dt(max) declined with age in Little mice. In contrast, old WT mice had no change in FS but had significantly lower +dP/dt(max) and -dP/dt(max) versus young WT mice. Significant decreases were observed in the velocity indices of old Little mice versus old WT mice, but other parameters were unchanged. The magnitude of dobutamine stress response remained unchanged with age in Little mice, while that in WT mice decreased. These data suggest that while resting cardiac function in Little mice versus WT mice is lower at young age, it is relatively unaltered with aging. Additionally, cardiac function in response to stress was maintained with age in Little mice but not in their WT counterparts. Thus, some mouse models of increased longevity may not be associated with enhanced reserves.
Our previous microarray expression analysis of the long-lived Little mice (Ghrhr(lit/lit)) showed a concerted up-regulation of xenobiotic detoxification genes. Here, we show that this up-regulation is associated with a potent increase in resistance against the adverse effects of a variety of xenobiotics, including the hepatotoxins acetaminophen and bromobenzene and the paralyzing agent zoxazolamine. The classic xenobiotic receptors Car (Constitutive Androstane Receptor) and Pxr (Pregnane X Receptor) are considered key regulators of xenobiotic metabolism. Using double and triple knockout/mutant mouse models we found, however, that Car and Pxr are not required for the up-regulation of xenobiotic genes in Little mice. Our results suggest instead that bile acids and the primary bile acid receptor Fxr (farnesoid X receptor) are likely mediators of the up-regulation of xenobiotic detoxification genes in Little mice. Bile acid levels are considerably elevated in the bile, serum, and liver of Little mice. We found that treatment of wild-type animals with cholic acid, one of the major bile acids elevated in Little mice, mimics in large part the up-regulation of xenobiotic detoxification genes observed in Little mice. Additionally, the loss of Fxr had a major effect on the expression of the xenobiotic detoxification genes up-regulated in Little mice. A large fraction of these genes lost or decreased their high expression levels in double mutant mice for Fxr and Ghrhr. The alterations in xenobiotic metabolism in Little mice constitute a form of increased stress resistance and may contribute to the extended longevity of these mice.
Genetic mutations that increase lifespan in mice frequently involve alterations in the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-I signaling pathway. Although several of the effects of GH on gene expression are known to be sex-dependent, an understanding of the gender-specific vs. gender-independent effects of lifespan-extending mutations of the GH/IGF-I axis is currently lacking. The Ames dwarf mice (prop1(df/df)) are GH, prolactin and thyroid-stimulating hormone deficient and exhibit an increase in mean lifespan of 49% in males and 68% in females. We used oligonucleotide arrays containing over 14,000 genes to study the gender-specific vs. gender-independent effects of the prop1(df) mutation in liver of male and female Ames mice. We identified 381 gender-independent and 110 gender-specific alterations in gene expression produced by the Prop1(df/df) genotype. The gender-specific alterations corresponded to genes with a strong sexual dimorphism in wild-type mice and produced an almost complete loss of sex-specific gene expression in the liver of Ames dwarf mice: out of 123 genes that showed sexual dimorphism in wild-type mice only six maintained a gender difference in mutant mice. However, the Prop1(df/df) genotype did not introduce new sexually dimorphic patterns of gene expression in Ames dwarf mice that were not present in the wild-type animals. The gender-specific alterations accounted for a large fraction of the most significant changes in gene expression in male and female Ames mice livers and affected several metabolic processes, particularly fatty acid metabolism, steroid hormone metabolism, and xenobiotic metabolism.
Ames dwarf mice (Prop1df/df) and Little mice (Ghrhrlit/lit) are used as models of delayed aging and show significant increases in lifespan (50% and 25%, respectively) when compared with their wild-type siblings. To gain further insight into the molecular basis for the extended longevity of these mice, we used oligonucleotide microarrays to measure levels of expression of over 14 000 RNA transcripts in liver during normal aging at 3, 6, 12 and 24 months. We found that the Prop1df/df and Ghrhrlit/lit genotypes produce dramatic alterations in gene expression, which are predominantly maintained at all ages. We found 1125 genes to be significantly affected by the Prop1df/df genotype and 1152 genes were significantly affected by the Ghrhrlit/lit genotype; 547 genes were present in both gene lists and showed parallel changes in gene expression, suggesting common mechanisms for the extended longevity in these mutants. Some of the functional gene classes most affected in these mutants included: amino acid metabolism, TCA cycle, mitochondrial electron transport, fatty acid, cholesterol and steroid metabolism, xenobiotic metabolism and oxidant metabolism. We found that the Prop1df/df genotype, and to a minor extent the Ghrhrlit/lit genotype, also produced complex alterations in age-dependent changes in gene expression as compared with wild-type mice. In some cases these alterations reflected a partial delay or deceleration of age-related changes in gene expression as seen in wild-type mice but they also introduced age-related changes that are unique for each of these mutants and not present in wild-type mice.