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1.  Pyruvate catabolism and hydrogen synthesis pathway genes of Clostridium thermocellum ATCC 27405 
Indian Journal of Microbiology  2008;48(2):252-266.
Clostridium thermocellum is a gram-positive, acetogenic, thermophilic, anaerobic bacterium that degrades cellulose and carries out mixed product fermentation, catabolising cellulose to acetate, lactate, and ethanol under various growth conditions, with the concomitant release of H2 and CO2. Very little is known about the factors that determine metabolic fluxes influencing H2 synthesis in anaerobic, cellulolytic bacteria like C. thermocellum. We have begun to investigate the relationships between genome content, gene expression, and end-product synthesis in C. thermocellum cultured under different conditions. Using bioinformatics tools and the complete C. thermocellum 27405 genome sequence, we identified genes encoding key enzymes in pyruvate catabolism and H2-synthesis pathways, and have confirmed transcription of these genes throughout growth on α-cellulose by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Bioinformatic analyses revealed two putative lactate dehydrogenases, one pyruvate formate lyase, four pyruvate:formate lyase activating enzymes, and at least three putative pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase (POR) or POR-like enzymes. Our data suggests that hydrogen may be generated through the action of either a Ferredoxin (Fd)-dependent NiFe hydrogenase, often referred to as “Energy-converting Hydrogenases”, or via NAD(P)Hdependent Fe-only hydrogenases which would permit H2 production from NADH generated during the glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase reaction. Furthermore, our findings show the presence of a gene cluster putatively encoding a membrane integral NADH:Fd oxidoreductase, suggesting a possible mechanism in which electrons could be transferred between NADH and ferredoxin. The elucidation of pyruvate catabolism pathways and mechanisms of H2 synthesis is the first step in developing strategies to increase hydrogen yields from biomass. Our studies have outlined the likely pathways leading to hydrogen synthesis in C. thermocellum strain 27405, but the actual functional roles of these gene products during pyruvate catabolism and in H 2 synthesis remain to be elucidated, and will need to be confirmed using both expression analysis and protein characterization.
PMCID: PMC3450175  PMID: 23100718
Clostridium thermocellum; Fermentation; Cellulose; Hydrogen; Pyruvate catabolism
2.  Transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of Desulfovibrio vulgaris biofilms: Carbon and energy flow contribute to the distinct biofilm growth state 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:138.
Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough is a sulfate-reducing bacterium (SRB) that is intensively studied in the context of metal corrosion and heavy-metal bioremediation, and SRB populations are commonly observed in pipe and subsurface environments as surface-associated populations. In order to elucidate physiological changes associated with biofilm growth at both the transcript and protein level, transcriptomic and proteomic analyses were done on mature biofilm cells and compared to both batch and reactor planktonic populations. The biofilms were cultivated with lactate and sulfate in a continuously fed biofilm reactor, and compared to both batch and reactor planktonic populations.
The functional genomic analysis demonstrated that biofilm cells were different compared to planktonic cells, and the majority of altered abundances for genes and proteins were annotated as hypothetical (unknown function), energy conservation, amino acid metabolism, and signal transduction. Genes and proteins that showed similar trends in detected levels were particularly involved in energy conservation such as increases in an annotated ech hydrogenase, formate dehydrogenase, pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase, and rnf oxidoreductase, and the biofilm cells had elevated formate dehydrogenase activity. Several other hydrogenases and formate dehydrogenases also showed an increased protein level, while decreased transcript and protein levels were observed for putative coo hydrogenase as well as a lactate permease and hyp hydrogenases for biofilm cells. Genes annotated for amino acid synthesis and nitrogen utilization were also predominant changers within the biofilm state. Ribosomal transcripts and proteins were notably decreased within the biofilm cells compared to exponential-phase cells but were not as low as levels observed in planktonic, stationary-phase cells. Several putative, extracellular proteins (DVU1012, 1545) were also detected in the extracellular fraction from biofilm cells.
Even though both the planktonic and biofilm cells were oxidizing lactate and reducing sulfate, the biofilm cells were physiologically distinct compared to planktonic growth states due to altered abundances of genes/proteins involved in carbon/energy flow and extracellular structures. In addition, average expression values for multiple rRNA transcripts and respiratory activity measurements indicated that biofilm cells were metabolically more similar to exponential-phase cells although biofilm cells are structured differently. The characterization of physiological advantages and constraints of the biofilm growth state for sulfate-reducing bacteria will provide insight into bioremediation applications as well as microbially-induced metal corrosion.
PMCID: PMC3431258  PMID: 22507456
3.  Proteome-wide systems analysis of a cellulosic biofuel-producing microbe 
We apply mass spectrometry-based ReDi proteomics to quantify the Clostridium phytofermentans proteome during fermentation of cellulosic substrates. ReDi proteomics gives accurate, low-cost quantification of an extra and intracellular microbial proteome. When combined with physiological measurements, these methods form a general systems biology strategy to evaluate the efficiency of cellulosic bioconversion and to identify enzyme targets to engineer for improving this process.C. phytofermentans expressed more than 100 carbohydrate-active enzymes, of which distinct subsets were upregulated on cellulose and hemicellulose. Numerous extracellular enzymes cleave insoluble plant polysaccharides into oligosaccharides, which are transported into the cell to be further degraded by intracellular carbohydratases. Sugars are catabolized by EMP glycolysis incorporating alternative glycolytic enzymes to maximize the ATP yield of anaerobic metabolism.During cellulosic fermentation, cells adhered to the substrate and altered metabolic processes such as upregulation of tryptophan and nicotinamide synthesis proteins and repression of proteins for fatty acid metabolism and cell motility. These diverse metabolic changes highlight how a systems approach can identify novel ways to optimize cellulosic fermentation.
Cellulose is the world's most abundant renewable, biological energy source (Leschine, 1995). Microbial fermentation of cellulosic biomass could sustainably provide enough ethanol for 65% of US ground transportation fuel at current levels (Somerville, 2006). However, cellulose in plant biomass is packaged into a crystalline matrix, making biomass deconstruction a key roadblock to using it as a feedstock (Houghton et al, 2006). A promising strategy to overcome biomass recalcitrance is consolidated bioprocessing (Lynd et al, 2002), which uses microbes such as Clostridium phytofermentans to both secrete enzymes to depolymerize biomass and then ferment the resulting hexose and pentose sugars to a biofuel such as ethanol. The C. phytofermentans genome encodes 161 carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZy) including 108 glycoside hydrolases spread across 39 families (Cantarel et al, 2009), highlighting the elaborate set of enzymes needed to breakdown different cellulosic polysaccharides. Faced with the complexity of metabolizing biomass, systems biology strategies are needed to comprehensively identify which cellulolytic and metabolic enzymes are used to ferment different cellulosic substrates.
This study presents a systems-level analysis of how C. phytofermentans ferments different cellulosic substrates that incorporates quantitative mass spectrometry-based proteomics of over 2500 proteins. Protein concentrations within each carbon source treatment were calculated by machine learning-supported spectral counting (Absolute Protein EXpression, APEX) (Lu et al, 2007). Protein levels on hemicellulose and cellulose relative to glucose were determined using reductive methylation (Hsu et al, 2003; Boersema et al, 2009), here called ReDi labeling, to chemically incorporate hydrogen or deuterium isotopes at lysines and N-terminal amines of tryptic peptides. We show that ReDi proteomics gives accurate, low-cost quantification of a microbial proteome and can be used to discern extracellular proteins. Further, we combine these quantitative proteomics with detailed measurements of growth, biomass consumption, fermentation product analyses, and electron microscopy. Together, these methods form a general strategy to evaluate the efficiency of cellulosic bioconversion and to identify enzyme targets to engineer for improving this process (Figure 1).
We found that fermentation of cellulosic substrates by C. phytofermentans involves secretion of numerous CAZy as well as proteins for binding of extracellular solutes, proteolysis, and motility. The most highly expressed protein in the proteome is a secreted protein that appears to compose a surface layer to support the cell and anchor cell surface proteins, including some enzymes for plant degradation. Once the secreted CAZy cleave insoluble plant polysaccharides into oligosaccharides, they are taken into the cell to be further degraded by intracellular CAZy, enabling more efficient sugar transport, conserving energy by phosphorolytic cleavage, and ensuring the sugar monomers were not available to competing microbes. Sugars are catabolized by EMP glycolysis incorporating reversible, PPi-dependent glycolytic enzymes, and pyruvate ferredoxin oxidoreductase. The genome encodes seven alcohol dehydrogenases, among which two iron-dependent enzymes are highly expressed and likely facilitate the high ethanol yields. Growth on cellulose also resulted in indirect changes such as increased tryptophan and nicotinamide synthesis and repression of fatty acid synthesis. We distilled the data into a model showing the highly expressed enzymes enabling efficient cellulosic fermentation by C. phytofermentans (Figure 7). Collectively, these data help understand how bacteria recycle plant biomass works towards enabling the use of plant biomass as a low-cost chemical feedstock.
Fermentation of plant biomass by microbes like Clostridium phytofermentans recycles carbon globally and can make biofuels from inedible feedstocks. We analyzed C. phytofermentans fermenting cellulosic substrates by integrating quantitative mass spectrometry of more than 2500 proteins with measurements of growth, enzyme activities, fermentation products, and electron microscopy. Absolute protein concentrations were estimated using Absolute Protein EXpression (APEX); relative changes between treatments were quantified with chemical stable isotope labeling by reductive dimethylation (ReDi). We identified the different combinations of carbohydratases used to degrade cellulose and hemicellulose, many of which were secreted based on quantification of supernatant proteins, as well as the repertoires of glycolytic enzymes and alcohol dehydrogenases (ADHs) enabling ethanol production at near maximal yields. Growth on cellulose also resulted in diverse changes such as increased expression of tryptophan synthesis proteins and repression of proteins for fatty acid metabolism and cell motility. This study gives a systems-level understanding of how this microbe ferments biomass and provides a rational, empirical basis to identify engineering targets for industrial cellulosic fermentation.
PMCID: PMC3049413  PMID: 21245846
bioenergy; clostridium; proteomics
4.  Ethanol Production by Thermophilic Bacteria: Relationship Between Fermentation Product Yields of and Catabolic Enzyme Activities in Clostridium thermocellum and Thermoanaerobium brockii 
Journal of Bacteriology  1980;144(2):569-578.
Significant quantitative differences in end-product yields by two strains of Clostridium thermocellum and one strain of Thermoanaerobium brockii were observed during cellobiose fermentation. Most notably, the ethanol/H2 and lactate/acetate ratios were drastically higher for T. brockii as compared with C. thermocellum strains LQRI and AS39. Exogenous H2 addition (0.4 to 1.0 atm) during culture growth increased the ethanol/acetate ratio of both T. brockii and AS39 but had no effect on LQRI. All strains had an operative Embden-Meyerhof glycolytic pathway and displayed catabolic activities of fructose-1,6-diphosphate–activated lactate dehydrogenase, coenzyme A acetylating pyruvate and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, hydrogenase, ethanol dehydrogenase, and acetate kinase. Enzyme kinetic properties (apparent Km, Vmax, and Q10 values) and the specificity of electron donors/acceptors for different oxidoreductases involved in pyruvate conversion to fermentation products were compared in the three strains. Both species contained ferredoxin-linked pyruvate dehydrogenase and pyridine nucleotide oxidoreductases. Ferredoxin-nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) reductase activity was significantly higher in T. brockii than in AS39 and was not detectable in LQRI. H2 production and hydrogenase activity were inversely related to ferredoxin-NAD reductase activity in the three strains. Ferredoxin-NAD phosphate reductase activity was present in cell extracts of both species. Alcohol dehydrogenase activity in C. thermocellum was NAD dependent, unidirectional, and inhibited by low concentrations of NAD and ethanol. Ethanol dehydrogenase activity of T. brockii was both NAD and NADP linked, reversible, and not inhibited by low levels of reaction products. The high lactate yield of T. brockii correlated with increased fructose-1,6-diphosphate. The relation of catabolic enzyme activity and quantitative differences in intracellular electron flow and fermentation product yields of these thermophilic bacteria is discussed.
PMCID: PMC294704  PMID: 7430065
5.  Linking genome content to biofuel production yields: a meta-analysis of major catabolic pathways among select H2 and ethanol-producing bacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:295.
Fermentative bacteria offer the potential to convert lignocellulosic waste-streams into biofuels such as hydrogen (H2) and ethanol. Current fermentative H2 and ethanol yields, however, are below theoretical maxima, vary greatly among organisms, and depend on the extent of metabolic pathways utilized. For fermentative H2 and/or ethanol production to become practical, biofuel yields must be increased. We performed a comparative meta-analysis of (i) reported end-product yields, and (ii) genes encoding pyruvate metabolism and end-product synthesis pathways to identify suitable biomarkers for screening a microorganism’s potential of H2 and/or ethanol production, and to identify targets for metabolic engineering to improve biofuel yields. Our interest in H2 and/or ethanol optimization restricted our meta-analysis to organisms with sequenced genomes and limited branched end-product pathways. These included members of the Firmicutes, Euryarchaeota, and Thermotogae.
Bioinformatic analysis revealed that the absence of genes encoding acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and bifunctional acetaldehyde/alcohol dehydrogenase (AdhE) in Caldicellulosiruptor, Thermococcus, Pyrococcus, and Thermotoga species coincide with high H2 yields and low ethanol production. Organisms containing genes (or activities) for both ethanol and H2 synthesis pathways (i.e. Caldanaerobacter subterraneus subsp. tengcongensis, Ethanoligenens harbinense, and Clostridium species) had relatively uniform mixed product patterns. The absence of hydrogenases in Geobacillus and Bacillus species did not confer high ethanol production, but rather high lactate production. Only Thermoanaerobacter pseudethanolicus produced relatively high ethanol and low H2 yields. This may be attributed to the presence of genes encoding proteins that promote NADH production. Lactate dehydrogenase and pyruvate:formate lyase are not conducive for ethanol and/or H2 production. While the type(s) of encoded hydrogenases appear to have little impact on H2 production in organisms that do not encode ethanol producing pathways, they do influence reduced end-product yields in those that do.
Here we show that composition of genes encoding pathways involved in pyruvate catabolism and end-product synthesis pathways can be used to approximate potential end-product distribution patterns. We have identified a number of genetic biomarkers for streamlining ethanol and H2 producing capabilities. By linking genome content, reaction thermodynamics, and end-product yields, we offer potential targets for optimization of either ethanol or H2 yields through metabolic engineering.
PMCID: PMC3561251  PMID: 23249097
6.  Hydrogen Metabolism in Shewanella oneidensis MR-1▿  
Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 is a facultative sediment microorganism which uses diverse compounds, such as oxygen and fumarate, as well as insoluble Fe(III) and Mn(IV) as electron acceptors. The electron donor spectrum is more limited and includes metabolic end products of primary fermenting bacteria, such as lactate, formate, and hydrogen. While the utilization of hydrogen as an electron donor has been described previously, we report here the formation of hydrogen from pyruvate under anaerobic, stationary-phase conditions in the absence of an external electron acceptor. Genes for the two S. oneidensis MR-1 hydrogenases, hydA, encoding a periplasmic [Fe-Fe] hydrogenase, and hyaB, encoding a periplasmic [Ni-Fe] hydrogenase, were found to be expressed only under anaerobic conditions during early exponential growth and into stationary-phase growth. Analyses of ΔhydA, ΔhyaB, and ΔhydA ΔhyaB in-frame-deletion mutants indicated that HydA functions primarily as a hydrogen-forming hydrogenase while HyaB has a bifunctional role and represents the dominant hydrogenase activity under the experimental conditions tested. Based on results from physiological and genetic experiments, we propose that hydrogen is formed from pyruvate by multiple parallel pathways, one pathway involving formate as an intermediate, pyruvate-formate lyase, and formate-hydrogen lyase, comprised of HydA hydrogenase and formate dehydrogenase, and a formate-independent pathway involving pyruvate dehydrogenase. A reverse electron transport chain is potentially involved in a formate-hydrogen lyase-independent pathway. While pyruvate does not support a fermentative mode of growth in this microorganism, pyruvate, in the absence of an electron acceptor, increased cell viability in anaerobic, stationary-phase cultures, suggesting a role in the survival of S. oneidensis MR-1 under stationary-phase conditions.
PMCID: PMC1828657  PMID: 17189435
7.  Transcriptomic analysis of Clostridium thermocellum ATCC 27405 cellulose fermentation 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:134.
The ability of Clostridium thermocellum ATCC 27405 wild-type strain to hydrolyze cellulose and ferment the degradation products directly to ethanol and other metabolic byproducts makes it an attractive candidate for consolidated bioprocessing of cellulosic biomass to biofuels. In this study, whole-genome microarrays were used to investigate the expression of C. thermocellum mRNA during growth on crystalline cellulose in controlled replicate batch fermentations.
A time-series analysis of gene expression revealed changes in transcript levels of ~40% of genes (~1300 out of 3198 ORFs encoded in the genome) during transition from early-exponential to late-stationary phase. K-means clustering of genes with statistically significant changes in transcript levels identified six distinct clusters of temporal expression. Broadly, genes involved in energy production, translation, glycolysis and amino acid, nucleotide and coenzyme metabolism displayed a decreasing trend in gene expression as cells entered stationary phase. In comparison, genes involved in cell structure and motility, chemotaxis, signal transduction and transcription showed an increasing trend in gene expression. Hierarchical clustering of cellulosome-related genes highlighted temporal changes in composition of this multi-enzyme complex during batch growth on crystalline cellulose, with increased expression of several genes encoding hydrolytic enzymes involved in degradation of non-cellulosic substrates in stationary phase.
Overall, the results suggest that under low substrate availability, growth slows due to decreased metabolic potential and C. thermocellum alters its gene expression to (i) modulate the composition of cellulosomes that are released into the environment with an increased proportion of enzymes than can efficiently degrade plant polysaccharides other than cellulose, (ii) enhance signal transduction and chemotaxis mechanisms perhaps to sense the oligosaccharide hydrolysis products, and nutrient gradients generated through the action of cell-free cellulosomes and, (iii) increase cellular motility for potentially orienting the cells' movement towards positive environmental signals leading to nutrient sources. Such a coordinated cellular strategy would increase its chances of survival in natural ecosystems where feast and famine conditions are frequently encountered.
PMCID: PMC3130646  PMID: 21672225
8.  Thermoanaerobacter thermohydrosulfuricus WC1 Shows Protein Complement Stability during Fermentation of Key Lignocellulose-Derived Substrates 
Thermoanaerobacter spp. have long been considered suitable Clostridium thermocellum coculture partners for improving lignocellulosic biofuel production through consolidated bioprocessing. However, studies using “omic”-based profiling to better understand carbon utilization and biofuel producing pathways have been limited to only a few strains thus far. To better characterize carbon and electron flux pathways in the recently isolated, xylanolytic strain, Thermoanaerobacter thermohydrosulfuricus WC1, label-free quantitative proteomic analyses were combined with metabolic profiling. SWATH-MS proteomic analysis quantified 832 proteins in each of six proteomes isolated from mid-exponential-phase cells grown on xylose, cellobiose, or a mixture of both. Despite encoding genes consistent with a carbon catabolite repression network observed in other Gram-positive organisms, simultaneous consumption of both substrates was observed. Lactate was the major end product of fermentation under all conditions despite the high expression of gene products involved with ethanol and/or acetate synthesis, suggesting that carbon flux in this strain may be controlled via metabolite-based (allosteric) regulation or is constrained by metabolic bottlenecks. Cross-species “omic” comparative analyses confirmed similar expression patterns for end-product-forming gene products across diverse Thermoanaerobacter spp. It also identified differences in cofactor metabolism, which potentially contribute to differences in end-product distribution patterns between the strains analyzed. The analyses presented here improve our understanding of T. thermohydrosulfuricus WC1 metabolism and identify important physiological limitations to be addressed in its development as a biotechnologically relevant strain in ethanologenic designer cocultures through consolidated bioprocessing.
PMCID: PMC3957603  PMID: 24362431
9.  Understanding the physiology of Lactobacillus plantarum at zero growth 
The physiology of Lactobacillus plantarum at extremely low growth rates, through cultivation in retentostats, is much closer to carbon-limited growth than to stationary phase, as evidenced from transcriptomics data, metabolic fluxes, and biomass composition and viability.Using a genome-scale metabolic model and constraint-based computational analyses, amino-acid fluxes—in particular, the rather paradoxical excretion of Asp, Arg, Met, and Ala—could be rationalized as a means to allow extensive metabolism of other amino acids, that is, that of branched-chain and aromatic amino acids.Catabolic products from aromatic amino acids are known to have putative plant-hormone action. The metabolism of amino acids, as well as transcription data, strongly suggested a plant environment-like response in slow-growing L. plantarum, which was confirmed by significant effects of fermented medium on plant root formation.
Natural ecosystems are usually characterized by extremely low and fluctuating nutrient availability. Hence, microorganisms in these environments live a ‘feast-and-famine' existence, with famine the most habitual state. As a result, extremely slow or no growth is the most common state of bacteria, and maintenance processes dominate their life.
In the present study, Lactobacillus plantarum was used as a model microorganism to investigate the physiology of slow growth. Besides fermented foods, this microorganism can be observed in a variety of environmental niches, including plants and lakes, in which nutrient supply is limited. To mimic these conditions, L. plantarum was grown in a glucose-limited chemostat with complete biomass retention (retentostat). During cultivation, biomass progressively accumulated, resulting in steadily decreasing specific substrate availability. Less energy was thus available for growth, and the specific growth rate decreased accordingly, with a final calculated doubling time greater than one year. Detailed measurements of metabolic fluxes were used as constraints in a genome-scale metabolic model to precisely calculate the amount of energy used for net biomass synthesis and for maintenance purposes: at the lowest growth rate investigated (μ=0.0002 h−1), maintenance accounted for 94% of all energy expenses.
Genome-scale metabolic analysis was used in combination with transcriptomics to study the adaptation of L. plantarum to extremely slow growth under limited carbon and energy supply. Importantly, slow growth as investigated here was fundamentally different from the widely studied carbon starvation-induced stationary phase: non-growing cells in retentostat conditions were glucose limited rather than starved, and the transition from a growing to a non-growing state under retentostat conditions was progressive, in contrast with the abrupt transition in batch cultures. These differences were reflected in various aspects of the cell physiology.
The metabolic behavior was remarkably stable during adaptation to slow growth. Although carbon catabolite repression was clearly relieved, as indicated by the upregulation of genes for the utilization of alternative carbohydrates, the metabolism remained largely based on the conversion of glucose to lactate.
Stress resistance mechanisms were also not massively induced. In particular, analysis of the biomass composition—which remained similar to fast-growing cells even under virtually non-growing conditions—and of the gene expression profile, failed to reveal clear stringent or general stress responses, which are generally triggered in glucose-starved cells. The observation that genes involved in growth-associated processes were not downregulated suggested that active synthesis of biomass components (RNA, proteins, and membranes) was required to account for the observed stable biomass and that turnover of macromolecules was high in slow-growing cells. Biomass viability or morphology was also not affected, compared with faster growth conditions. The only typical stress response was the induction of an SOS response—in particular, the upregulation of the two error-prone DNA polymerases—suggesting an increased potential for genetic diversity under adverse conditions. Although diversity was not apparent under the conditions studied here, such mechanisms of increased rates of mutagenesis are likely to have an important role in the adaptation of L. plantarum to slow growth.
A surprising response of L. plantarum during adaptation to slow growth was the production of several amino acids (Arg, Asp, Met, and Ala). A priori, this metabolic behavior seemed inefficient in a context of energy limitation. However, reduced cost analysis using the genome-scale metabolic model indicated that it had a positive effect on energy generation. In-depth analysis of metabolic flux distributions showed that biosynthesis of these amino acids was connected to the catabolism of branched-chain and aromatic amino acids (BCAAs and AAAs), under conditions of limited ammonium efflux. At a fixed ammonium efflux—fixed at the measured value—flux balance analysis indicated that BCAAs and AAAs were expensive to metabolize, because the regeneration of 2-ketoglutarate through glutamate dehydrogenase was limited by ammonium dissipation. Therefore, alternative pathways had to be active to supply the necessary pool of 2-ketoglutarate. At low growth rates, amino-acid production (Arg, Asp, Ala, and Met) accounted for most of the 2-ketoglutarate regeneration. Although it came at the expense of ATP, this metabolic alternative to glutamate dehydrogenase was less energy costly than other solutions such as purine biosynthesis. This is thus an excellent example in which precise, quantitative modeling results in new insights in physiology that intuition would never have achieved. It also shows that flux balance analysis can be used to accurately predict energetically inefficient metabolism, provided the appropriate fluxes are constrained (here, ammonium efflux).
The observation that BCAAs and AAAs were catabolized at the expense of energy was intriguing. However, several end products of these catabolic pathways can serve as signaling molecules for interactions with other organisms. In particular, precursors of plant hormones were predicted as possible end products in the model simulations. Accordingly, the production of compounds interfering with plant root development was demonstrated in slow-growing L. plantarum. The metabolic analysis thus suggested that slow-growing L. plantarum produced plant hormones—or precursors thereof—as a strategy to divert the plant metabolism towards its own interest. In support of this view, transcriptome analysis indicated the upregulation of genes involved in the catabolism of β-glucosides—typical sugars from plant cell wall—as well as a very high induction of six gene clusters encoding cell-surface protein complexes predicted to have a role in the utilization of plant polysaccharides (csc clusters). In such a plant context, limited ammonium production would also make sense, because of the well-documented toxicity of ammonium for plants: production of amino acids could represent an alternative to ammonium excretion while keeping both parties satisfied.
In conclusion, the physiology of L. plantarum at extremely low growth rates, as studied by genome-scale metabolic modeling and transcriptomics, is fundamentally different from that of starvation-induced stationary phase cells. Excitingly, these conditions seem to trigger responses that favor interactions with the environment, more specifically with plants. The reported observations were made in the absence of any plant-derived material, suggesting that this response might constitute a hardwired behavior.
Situations of extremely low substrate availability, resulting in slow growth, are common in natural environments. To mimic these conditions, Lactobacillus plantarum was grown in a carbon-limited retentostat with complete biomass retention. The physiology of extremely slow-growing L. plantarum—as studied by genome-scale modeling and transcriptomics—was fundamentally different from that of stationary-phase cells. Stress resistance mechanisms were not massively induced during transition to extremely slow growth. The energy-generating metabolism was remarkably stable and remained largely based on the conversion of glucose to lactate. The combination of metabolic and transcriptomic analyses revealed behaviors involved in interactions with the environment, more particularly with plants: production of plant hormones or precursors thereof, and preparedness for the utilization of plant-derived substrates. Accordingly, the production of compounds interfering with plant root development was demonstrated in slow-growing L. plantarum. Thus, conditions of slow growth and limited substrate availability seem to trigger a plant environment-like response, even in the absence of plant-derived material, suggesting that this might constitute an intrinsic behavior in L. plantarum.
PMCID: PMC2964122  PMID: 20865006
Lactobacillus plantarum; metabolic modeling; retentostat; slow growth; transcriptome analysis
10.  Regulation of Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B: Effect of Thiamine Starvation 
Applied Microbiology  1971;22(2):242-249.
During the transition between the exponential and stationary phases of growth, there was a rapid accumulation of both cell-associated and extracellular enterotoxin B. Extracellular enterotoxin was synthesized until the cells entered the stationary phase during which cell-bound toxin was not detected. The differential rate of toxin synthesis relative to that of total protein synthesis was greater at pH 7.7 than at 6.0. Addition of glucose decreased the differential rate of toxin synthesis. This decrease was greater at pH 7.7 than at 6.0. Addition of pyruvate decreased the differential rate at pH 7.7 but not at 6.0. Analysis of the nongaseous end products of glucose and pyruvate metabolism showed that conditions which favor the oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate also favor the repression of toxin synthesis. Elimination of thiamine from the medium prevented the oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate by Staphylococcus aureus S-6 and partially or completely reversed the repression of toxin synthesis by glucose and pyruvate. In the absence of an added energy source, thiamine starvation caused a decrease in protein synthesis but an increased differential rate of toxin synthesis which was greater at pH 7.7 than at 6.0. In the absence of thiamine, pyruvate was not metabolized but caused a decrease in the rate of protein synthesis. This resulted in a twofold increase in the differential rate of toxin synthesis. Thus, conditions which altered the oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate or decreased the rate of protein synthesis increased the rate of enterotoxin B synthesis.
PMCID: PMC377421  PMID: 4328865
11.  Increased expression of β-glucosidase A in Clostridium thermocellum 27405 significantly increases cellulase activity 
Bioengineered  2013;4(1):15-20.
β-glucosidase A (bglA) in Clostridium thermocellum 27405 was increased by expression from shuttle vector pIBglA in attempts to increase cellulase activity and ethanol titer by lowering the end product inhibition of cellulase. Through a modified electrotransformation protocol C. thermocellum transformant (+MCbglA) harbouring pIBglA was produced. The β-glucosidase activity of +MCbglA was 2.3- and 1.6-fold greater than wild-type (WT) during late log and stationary phases of growth. Similarly, total cellulase activity of +MCbglA was shown to be 1.7-, 2.3- and 1.6-fold greater than WT during, log, late log and stationary phases of growth. However, there was no significant correlation found between increased cellulase activity and increased ethanol titers for +MCbglA compared with the WT. C. thermocellum has industrial potential for consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) to make a more cost effective production of biofuels; however, the hydrolysis rate of the strain is still hindered by end product inhibition. We successfully increased total cellulase activity by increased expression of bglA and thereby increased the productivity of C. thermocellum during the hydrolysis stage in CBP. Our work also lends insights into the complex metabolism of C. thermocellum for future improvement of this strain.
PMCID: PMC3566014  PMID: 22922214
Clostridium thermocellum; bioethanol; cellulase activity; end-product inhibition; β-glucosidase
12.  Differential amylosaccharide metabolism of Clostridium thermosulfurogenes and Clostridium thermohydrosulfuricum. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1985;164(3):1153-1161.
Clostridium thermosulfurogenes displayed faster growth on either glucose, maltose, or starch than Clostridium thermohydrosulfuricum. Both species grew faster on glucose than on starch or maltose. The fermentation end product ratios were altered based on higher ethanol and lactate yields on starch than on glucose. In C. thermohydrosulfuricum, glucoamylase, pullulanase, and maltase were mainly responsible for conversion of starch and maltose into glucose, which was accumulated by a putative glucose permease. In C. thermosulfurogenes, beta-amylase was primarily responsible for degradation of starch to maltose, which was accumulated by a putative maltose permease and then hydrolyzed by glucoamylase. Regardless of the growth substrate, the rates of glucose, maltose, and starch transformation were higher in C. thermosulfurogenes than in C. thermohydrosulfuricum. Both species had a functional Embden-Meyerhof glycolytic pathway and displayed the following catabolic activities: ferredoxin-linked pyruvate dehydrogenase, acetate kinase, NAD(P)-ethanol dehydrogenase, NAD(P)-ferredoxin oxidoreductase, hydrogenase, and fructose-1,6-diphosphate-activated lactate dehydrogenase. Ferredoxin-NAD reductase activity was higher in C. thermohydrosulfuricum than NADH-ferredoxin oxidase activity, but the former activity was not detectable in C. thermosulfurogenes. Both NAD- and NADP-linked ethanol dehydrogenases were unidirectional in C. thermosulfurogenes but reversible in C. thermohydrosulfuricum. The ratio of hydrogen-producing hydrogenase to hydrogen-consuming hydrogenase was higher in C. thermosulfurogenes. Two biochemical models are proposed to explain the differential saccharide metabolism on the basis of species enzyme differences in relation to specific growth substrates.
PMCID: PMC219310  PMID: 3934139
13.  Expression of 17 Genes in Clostridium thermocellum ATCC 27405 during Fermentation of Cellulose or Cellobiose in Continuous Culture 
Clostridium thermocellum is a thermophilic, anaerobic, cellulolytic bacterium that produces ethanol and acetic acid as major fermentation end products. The effect of growth conditions on gene expression in C. thermocellum ATCC 27405 was studied using cells grown in continuous culture under cellobiose or cellulose limitation over a ∼10-fold range of dilution rates (0.013 to 0.16 h−1). Fermentation product distribution displayed similar patterns in cellobiose- or cellulose-grown cultures, including substantial shifts in the proportion of ethanol and acetic acid with changes in growth rate. Expression of 17 genes involved or potentially involved in cellulose degradation, intracellular phosphorylation, catabolite repression, and fermentation end product formation was quantified by real-time PCR, with normalization to two calibrator genes (recA and the 16S rRNA gene) to determine relative expression. Thirteen genes displayed modest (fivefold or less) differences in expression with growth rate or substrate type: sdbA (cellulosomal scaffoldin-dockerin binding protein), cdp (cellodextrin phosphorylase), cbp (cellobiose phosphorylase), hydA (hydrogenase), ldh (lactate dehydrogenase), ack (acetate kinase), one putative type IV alcohol dehydrogenase, two putative cyclic AMP binding proteins, three putative Hpr-like proteins, and a putative Hpr serine kinase. By contrast, four genes displayed >10-fold-reduced levels of expression when grown on cellobiose at dilution rates of >0.05 h−1: cipA (cellulosomal scaffolding protein), celS (exoglucanase), manA (mannanase), and a second type IV alcohol dehydrogenase. The data suggest that at least some cellulosomal components are transcriptionally regulated but that differences in expression with growth rate or among substrates do not directly account for observed changes in fermentation end product distribution.
PMCID: PMC1183361  PMID: 16085862
14.  Clostridium thermocellum transcriptomic profiles after exposure to furfural or heat stress 
The thermophilic anaerobe Clostridium thermocellum is a candidate consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) biocatalyst for cellulosic ethanol production. It is capable of both cellulose solubilization and its fermentation to produce lignocellulosic ethanol. Intolerance to stresses routinely encountered during industrial fermentations may hinder the commercial development of this organism. A previous C. thermocellum ethanol stress study showed that the largest transcriptomic response was in genes and proteins related to nitrogen uptake and metabolism.
In this study, C. thermocellum was grown to mid-exponential phase and treated with furfural or heat to a final concentration of 3 g.L-1 or 68°C respectively to investigate general and specific physiological and regulatory stress responses. Samples were taken at 10, 30, 60 and 120 min post-shock, and from untreated control fermentations, for transcriptomic analyses and fermentation product determinations and compared to a published dataset from an ethanol stress study. Urea uptake genes were induced following furfural stress, but not to the same extent as ethanol stress and transcription from these genes was largely unaffected by heat stress. The largest transcriptomic response to furfural stress was genes for sulfate transporter subunits and enzymes in the sulfate assimilatory pathway, although these genes were also affected late in the heat and ethanol stress responses. Lactate production was higher in furfural treated culture, although the lactate dehydrogenase gene was not differentially expressed under this condition. Other redox related genes such as a copy of the rex gene, a bifunctional acetaldehyde-CoA/alcohol dehydrogenase and adjacent genes did show lower expression after furfural stress compared to the control, heat and ethanol fermentation profiles. Heat stress induced expression from chaperone related genes and overlap was observed with the responses to the other stresses. This study suggests the involvement of C. thermocellum genes with functions in oxidative stress protection, electron transfer, detoxification, sulfur and nitrogen acquisition, and DNA repair mechanisms in its stress responses and the use of different regulatory networks to coordinate and control adaptation.
This study has identified C. thermocellum gene regulatory motifs and aspects of physiology and gene regulation for further study. The nexus between future systems biology studies and recently developed genetic tools for C. thermocellum offers the potential for more rapid strain development and for broader insights into this organism’s physiology and regulation.
PMCID: PMC3848806  PMID: 24028713
Biomass; Recalcitrance; Inhibitor; Stress; DNA microarray; Regulation; Regulatory motif
15.  Reduced catabolic protein expression in Clostridium butyricum DSM 10702 correlate with reduced 1,3-propanediol synthesis at high glycerol loading 
AMB Express  2014;4:63.
Higher initial glycerol loadings (620 mM) have a negative effect on growth and 1,3-propanediol (1,3-PDO) synthesis in Clostridium butyricum DSM 10702 relative to lower initial glycerol concentrations (170 mM). To help understand metabolic shifts associated with elevated glycerol, protein expression levels were quantified by LC/MS/MS analyses. Thirty one (31) proteins involved in conversion of glycerol to 1,3-PDO and other by-products were analyzed by multiple reaction monitoring (MRM). The analyses revealed that high glycerol concentrations reduced cell growth. The expression levels of most proteins in glycerol catabolism pathways were down-regulated, consistent with the slower growth rates observed. However, at high initial glycerol concentrations, some of the proteins involved in the butyrate synthesis pathways such as a putative ethanol dehydrogenase (CBY_3753) and a 3-hydroxybutyryl-CoA dehydrogenase (CBY_3045) were up-regulated in both exponential and stationary growth phases. Expression levels of proteins (CBY_0500, CBY_0501 and CBY_0502) involved in the reductive pathway of glycerol to 1,3-PDO were consistent with glycerol consumption and product concentrations observed during fermentation at both glycerol concentrations, and the molar yields of 1,3-PDO were similar in both cultures. This is the first report that correlates expression levels of glycerol catabolism enzymes with synthesis of 1,3-PDO in C. butyricum. The results revealed that significant differences in the expression of a small subset of proteins were observed between exponential and stationary growth phases at both low and high glycerol concentrations.
PMCID: PMC4230902  PMID: 25401066
Clostridium butyricum; 1,3-propanediol synthesis; Glycerol catabolism; Proteomics; Multiple reaction monitoring
16.  Synechococcus sp. Strain PCC 7002 nifJ Mutant Lacking Pyruvate:Ferredoxin Oxidoreductase ▿ †  
The nifJ gene codes for pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase (PFOR), which reduces ferredoxin during fermentative catabolism of pyruvate to acetyl-coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA). A nifJ knockout mutant was constructed that lacks one of two pathways for the oxidation of pyruvate in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. strain PCC 7002. Remarkably, the photoautotrophic growth rate of this mutant increased by 20% relative to the wild-type (WT) rate under conditions of light-dark cycling. This result is attributed to an increase in the quantum yield of photosystem II (PSII) charge separation as measured by photosynthetic electron turnover efficiency determined using fast-repetition-rate fluorometry (Fv/Fm). During autofermentation, the excretion of acetate and lactate products by nifJ mutant cells decreased 2-fold and 1.2-fold, respectively. Although nifJ cells displayed higher in vitro hydrogenase activity than WT cells, H2 production in vivo was 1.3-fold lower than the WT level. Inhibition of acetate-CoA ligase and pyruvate dehydrogenase complex by glycerol eliminated acetate production, with a resulting loss of reductant and a 3-fold decrease in H2 production by nifJ cells compared to WT cells. Continuous electrochemical detection of dissolved H2 revealed two temporally resolved phases of H2 production during autofermentation, a minor first phase and a major second phase. The first phase was attributed to reduction of ferredoxin, because its level decreased 2-fold in nifJ cells. The second phase was attributed to glycolytic NADH production and decreased 20% in nifJ cells. Measurement of the intracellular NADH/NAD+ ratio revealed that the reductant generated by PFOR contributing to the first phase of H2 production was not in equilibrium with bulk NADH/NAD+ and that the second phase corresponded to the equilibrium NADH-mediated process.
PMCID: PMC3067432  PMID: 21317262
17.  Metabolomic and transcriptomic stress response of Escherichia coli 
GC-MS-based analysis of the metabolic response of Escherichia coli exposed to four different stress conditions reveals reduction of energy expensive pathways.Time-resolved response of E. coli to changing environmental conditions is more specific on the metabolite as compared with the transcript level.Cease of growth during stress response as compared with stationary phase response invokes similar transcript but dissimilar metabolite responses.Condition-dependent associations between metabolites and transcripts are revealed applying co-clustering and canonical correlation analysis.
The response of biological systems to environmental perturbations is characterized by a fast and appropriate adjusting of physiology on every level of the cellular and molecular network.
Stress response is usually represented by a combination of both specific responses, aimed at minimizing deleterious effects or repairing damage (e.g. protein chaperones under temperature stress) and general responses which, in part, comprise the downregulation of genes related to translation and ribosome biogenesis. This in turn is reflected by growth cessation or reduction observed under essentially all stress conditions and is an important strategy to adjust cellular physiology to the new condition.
E. coli has been intensively investigated in relation to stress responses. Thus far, however, the majority of global analyses of E. coli stress responses have been limited to just one level, gene expression. To better understand system response to perturbation, we designed a time-resolved experiment to compare and integrate metabolic and transcript changes of E. coli using four stress conditions including non-lethal temperature shifts, oxidative stress, and carbon starvation relative to cultures grown under optimal conditions covering both states before and directly after stress application, resumption of growth after stress-induced lag phase, and finally the stationary phase.
Metabolic changes occurring after stress application were characterized by a reduction in metabolites of central metabolism (TCA cycle and glycolysis) as well as an increase in free amino acids. Whereas the latter is probably due to protein degradation and stalling of translation, the former supports and extends conclusions based on transcriptome data demonstrating a major decrease in energy-consuming processes as a general stress response. Further comparative analysis of the response on the metabolome and transcriptome, however, revealed in addition to these similarities major differences. Thus, the response on the metabolome displayed a significantly higher specificity towards the specific stress as compared with the transcriptome. Further, when comparing the metabolome of cells ceasing growth due to stress application with cells ceasing growth due to reaching stationary phase the metabolome response differed to a significant extent between both growth arrest phases, whereas the transcriptome response showed significant overlap again, suggesting that the response of E. coli on the metabolome level displays a higher level of significance as compared with the transcriptome level.
Subsequently, both data sets were jointly analyzed using co-clustering and canonical correlation approaches to identify coordinated changes on the transcriptome and the metabolite level indicative metabolite–transcript associations. A first outcome of this study was that no association was preserved during all conditions analyzed but rather condition-specific associations were observed. One set of associations found was between metabolites from the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway such as glc-6-P, 6-P-gluconic acid, ribose-5-P, and E-4-P and metabolites from the glycolytic pathway (3PGA and PEP in addition to glc-6-P with two genes encoding pathway enzymes, that is rpe encoding ribulose phosphate 3-epimerase and pps encoding PEP synthase.
A second example comprises metabolites of the TCA cycle such as pyruvic acid, 2-ketoglutaric acid, fumaric acid, malic acid, and succinic acid and the mqo gene encoding malate-quinone oxidoreductase (MQO). MQO catalyses the irreversible oxidation of malate to oxaloacetate that in turn regulates the activity of citrate synthase, which is a major rate determining enzyme of the TCA cycle. The strong association between mqo gene expression and multiple members of the TCA cycle as well as pyruvate suggest mqo expression to have a major function for the regulation of the TCA cycle, which need to be experimentally validated.
Multiple further associations identified show on the one hand the power of integrative systems oriented approaches for developing new hypothesis, on the other hand their condition-dependent behavior shows the extreme flexibility of the biological systems studied thus requesting a much more intense effort toward parallel analysis of biological systems under several environmental conditions.
Environmental fluctuations lead to a rapid adjustment of the physiology of Escherichia coli, necessitating changes on every level of the underlying cellular and molecular network. Thus far, the majority of global analyses of E. coli stress responses have been limited to just one level, gene expression. Here, we incorporate the metabolite composition together with gene expression data to provide a more comprehensive insight on system level stress adjustments by describing detailed time-resolved E. coli response to five different perturbations (cold, heat, oxidative stress, lactose diauxie, and stationary phase). The metabolite response is more specific as compared with the general response observed on the transcript level and is reflected by much higher specificity during the early stress adaptation phase and when comparing the stationary phase response to other perturbations. Despite these differences, the response on both levels still follows the same dynamics and general strategy of energy conservation as reflected by rapid decrease of central carbon metabolism intermediates coinciding with downregulation of genes related to cell growth. Application of co-clustering and canonical correlation analysis on combined metabolite and transcript data identified a number of significant condition-dependent associations between metabolites and transcripts. The results confirm and extend existing models about co-regulation between gene expression and metabolites demonstrating the power of integrated systems oriented analysis.
PMCID: PMC2890322  PMID: 20461071
Escherichia coli; metabolomic; response to stress; time course; transcriptomic
18.  Temporal Transcriptomic Analysis as Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough Transitions into Stationary Phase during Electron Donor Depletion†  
Desulfovibrio vulgaris was cultivated in a defined medium, and biomass was sampled for approximately 70 h to characterize the shifts in gene expression as cells transitioned from the exponential to the stationary phase during electron donor depletion. In addition to temporal transcriptomics, total protein, carbohydrate, lactate, acetate, and sulfate levels were measured. The microarray data were examined for statistically significant expression changes, hierarchical cluster analysis, and promoter element prediction and were validated by quantitative PCR. As the cells transitioned from the exponential phase to the stationary phase, a majority of the down-expressed genes were involved in translation and transcription, and this trend continued at the remaining times. There were general increases in relative expression for intracellular trafficking and secretion, ion transport, and coenzyme metabolism as the cells entered the stationary phase. As expected, the DNA replication machinery was down-expressed, and the expression of genes involved in DNA repair increased during the stationary phase. Genes involved in amino acid acquisition, carbohydrate metabolism, energy production, and cell envelope biogenesis did not exhibit uniform transcriptional responses. Interestingly, most phage-related genes were up-expressed at the onset of the stationary phase. This result suggested that nutrient depletion may affect community dynamics and DNA transfer mechanisms of sulfate-reducing bacteria via the phage cycle. The putative feoAB system (in addition to other presumptive iron metabolism genes) was significantly up-expressed, and this suggested the possible importance of Fe2+ acquisition under metal-reducing conditions. The expression of a large subset of carbohydrate-related genes was altered, and the total cellular carbohydrate levels declined during the growth phase transition. Interestingly, the D. vulgaris genome does not contain a putative rpoS gene, a common attribute of the δ-Proteobacteria genomes sequenced to date, and the transcription profiles of other putative rpo genes were not significantly altered. Our results indicated that in addition to expected changes (e.g., energy conversion, protein turnover, translation, transcription, and DNA replication and repair), genes related to phage, stress response, carbohydrate flux, the outer envelope, and iron homeostasis played important roles as D. vulgaris cells experienced electron donor depletion.
PMCID: PMC1538716  PMID: 16885312
19.  Comparison of transcriptional profiles of Clostridium thermocellum grown on cellobiose and pretreated yellow poplar using RNA-Seq 
The anaerobic, thermophilic bacterium, Clostridium thermocellum, secretes multi-protein enzyme complexes, termed cellulosomes, which synergistically interact with the microbial cell surface and efficiently disassemble plant cell wall biomass. C. thermocellum has also been considered a potential consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) organism due to its ability to produce the biofuel products, hydrogen, and ethanol. We found that C. thermocellum fermentation of pretreated yellow poplar (PYP) produced 30 and 39% of ethanol and hydrogen product concentrations, respectively, compared to fermentation of cellobiose. RNA-seq was used to analyze the transcriptional profiles of these cells. The PYP-grown cells taken for analysis at the late stationary phase showed 1211 genes up-regulated and 314 down-regulated by more than two-fold compared to the cellobiose-grown cells. These affected genes cover a broad spectrum of specific functional categories. The transcriptional analysis was further validated by sub-proteomics data taken from the literature; as well as by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR) analyses of selected genes. Specifically, 47 cellulosomal protein-encoding genes, genes for 4 pairs of SigI-RsgI for polysaccharide sensing, 7 cellodextrin ABC transporter genes, and a set of NAD(P)H hydogenase and alcohol dehydrogenase genes were up-regulated for cells growing on PYP compared to cellobiose. These genes could be potential candidates for future studies aimed at gaining insight into the regulatory mechanism of this organism as well as for improvement of C. thermocellum in its role as a CBP organism.
PMCID: PMC3990059  PMID: 24782837
Clostridium thermocellum; transcriptomics; RNA-Seq; pretreated yellow poplar (PYP); cellobiose; cellulosome; ethanol; hydrogen
20.  The Key Sigma Factor of Transition Phase, SigH, Controls Sporulation, Metabolism, and Virulence Factor Expression in Clostridium difficile▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(13):3186-3196.
Toxin synthesis in Clostridium difficile increases as cells enter into stationary phase. We first compared the expression profiles of strain 630E during exponential growth and at the onset of stationary phase and showed that genes involved in sporulation, cellular division, and motility, as well as carbon and amino acid metabolism, were differentially expressed under these conditions. We inactivated the sigH gene, which encodes an alternative sigma factor involved in the transition to post-exponential phase in Bacillus subtilis. Then, we compared the expression profiles of strain 630E and the sigH mutant after 10 h of growth. About 60% of the genes that were differentially expressed between exponential and stationary phases, including genes involved in motility, sporulation, and metabolism, were regulated by SigH, which thus appears to be a key regulator of the transition phase in C. difficile. SigH positively controls several genes required for sporulation. Accordingly, sigH inactivation results in an asporogeneous phenotype. The spo0A and CD2492 genes, encoding the master regulator of sporulation and one of its associated kinases, and the spoIIA operon were transcribed from a SigH-dependent promoter. The expression of tcdA and tcdB, encoding the toxins, and of tcdR, encoding the sigma factor required for toxin production, increased in a sigH mutant. Finally, SigH regulates the expression of genes encoding surface-associated proteins, such as the Cwp66 adhesin, the S-layer precursor, and the flagellum components. Among the 286 genes positively regulated by SigH, about 40 transcriptional units presenting a SigH consensus in their promoter regions are good candidates for direct SigH targets.
PMCID: PMC3133256  PMID: 21572003
21.  Formation and characterization of non-growth states in Clostridium thermocellum: spores and L-forms 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:180.
Clostridium thermocellum is an anaerobic thermophilic bacterium that exhibits high levels of cellulose solublization and produces ethanol as an end product of its metabolism. Using cellulosic biomass as a feedstock for fuel production is an attractive prospect, however, growth arrest can negatively impact ethanol production by fermentative microorganisms such as C. thermocellum. Understanding conditions that lead to non-growth states in C. thermocellum can positively influence process design and culturing conditions in order to optimize ethanol production in an industrial setting.
We report here that Clostridium thermocellum ATCC 27405 enters non-growth states in response to specific growth conditions. Non-growth states include the formation of spores and a L-form-like state in which the cells cease to grow or produce the normal end products of metabolism. Unlike other sporulating organisms, we did not observe sporulation of C. thermocellum in low carbon or nitrogen environments. However, sporulation did occur in response to transfers between soluble and insoluble substrates, resulting in approximately 7% mature spores. Exposure to oxygen caused a similar sporulation response. Starvation conditions during continuous culture did not result in spore formation, but caused the majority of cells to transition to a L-form state. Both spores and L-forms were determined to be viable. Spores exhibited enhanced survival in response to high temperature and prolonged storage compared to L-forms and vegetative cells. However, L-forms exhibited faster recovery compared to both spores and stationary phase cells when cultured in rich media.
Both spores and L-forms cease to produce ethanol, but provide other advantages for C. thermocellum including enhanced survival for spores and faster recovery for L-forms. Understanding the conditions that give rise to these two different non-growth states, and the implications that each has for enabling or enhancing C. thermocellum survival may promote the efficient cultivation of this organism and aid in its development as an industrial microorganism.
PMCID: PMC3438076  PMID: 22897981
22.  Ethanol production by thermophilic bacteria: biochemical basis for ethanol and hydrogen tolerance in Clostridium thermohydrosulfuricum. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1988;170(6):2809-2815.
The metabolic and enzymatic bases for growth tolerance to ethanol (4%) and H2 (2 atm [1 atm = 101.29 kPa]) fermentation products in Clostridium thermohydrosulfuricum were compared in a sensitive wild-type strain and an insensitive alcohol-adapted strain. In the wild-type strain, ethanol (4%) and H2 (2 atm) inhibited glucose but not pyruvate fermentation parameters (growth and end product formation). Inhibition of glucose fermentation by ethanol (4%) in the wild-type strain was reversed by addition of acetone (1%), which lowered H2 and ethanol production while increasing isopropanol and acetate production. Pulsing cells grown in continuous culture on glucose with 5% ethanol or 1 atm of H2 significantly raised the NADH/NAD ratio in the wild-type strain but not in the alcohol-adapted strain. Analysis of key oxidoreductases demonstrated that the alcohol-adapted strain lacked detectable levels of reduced ferredoxin-linked NAD reductase and NAD-linked alcohol dehydrogenase activities which were present in the wild-type strain. Differences in the glucose fermentation product ratios of the two strains were related to differences in lactate dehydrogenase and hydrogenase levels and sensitivity of glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase activity to NADH inhibition. A biochemical model is proposed which describes a common enzymatic mechanism for growth tolerance of thermoanaerobes to moderate concentrations of both ethanol and hydrogen.
PMCID: PMC211207  PMID: 3372483
23.  HepatoNet1: a comprehensive metabolic reconstruction of the human hepatocyte for the analysis of liver physiology 
We present HepatoNet1, a manually curated large-scale metabolic network of the human hepatocyte that encompasses >2500 reactions in six intracellular and two extracellular compartments.Using constraint-based modeling techniques, the network has been validated to replicate numerous metabolic functions of hepatocytes corresponding to a reference set of diverse physiological liver functions.Taking the detoxification of ammonia and the formation of bile acids as examples, we show how these liver-specific metabolic objectives can be achieved by the variable interplay of various metabolic pathways under varying conditions of nutrients and oxygen availability.
The liver has a pivotal function in metabolic homeostasis of the human body. Hepatocytes are the principal site of the metabolic conversions that underlie diverse physiological functions of the liver. These functions include provision and homeostasis of carbohydrates, amino acids, lipids and lipoproteins in the systemic blood circulation, biotransformation, plasma protein synthesis and bile formation, to name a few. Accordingly, hepatocyte metabolism integrates a vast array of differentially regulated biochemical activities and is highly responsive to environmental perturbations such as changes in portal blood composition (Dardevet et al, 2006). The complexity of this metabolic network and the numerous physiological functions to be achieved within a highly variable physiological environment necessitate an integrated approach with the aim of understanding liver metabolism at a systems level. To this end, we present HepatoNet1, a stoichiometric network of human hepatocyte metabolism characterized by (i) comprehensive coverage of known biochemical activities of hepatocytes and (ii) due representation of the biochemical and physiological functions of hepatocytes as functional network states. The network comprises 777 metabolites in six intracellular (cytosol, endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus, lysosome, mitochondria, nucleus, and peroxisome) and two extracellular compartments (bile canaliculus and sinusoidal space) and 2539 reactions, including 1466 transport reactions. It is based on the manual evaluation of >1500 original scientific research publications to warrant a high-quality evidence-based model. The final network is the result of an iterative process of data compilation and rigorous computational testing of network functionality by means of constraint-based modeling techniques. We performed flux-balance analyses to validate whether for >300 different metabolic objectives a non-zero stationary flux distribution could be established in the network. Figure 1 shows one such functional flux mode associated with the synthesis of the bile acid glycochenodeoxycholate, one important hepatocyte-specific physiological liver function. Besides those pathways directly linked to the synthesis of the bile acid, the mevalonate pathway and the de novo synthesis of cholesterol, the flux mode comprises additional pathways such as gluconeogenesis, the pentose phosphate pathway or the ornithine cycle because the calculations were routinely performed on a minimal set of exchangeable metabolites, that is all reactants were forced to be balanced and all exportable intermediates had to be catabolized into non-degradable end products. This example shows how HepatoNet1 under the challenges of limited exchange across the network boundary can reveal numerous cross-links between metabolic pathways traditionally perceived as separate entities. For example, alanine is used as gluconeogenic substrate to form glucose-6-phosphate, which is used in the pentose phosphate pathway to generate NADPH. The glycine moiety for bile acid conjugation is derived from serine. Conversion of ammonia into non-toxic nitrogen compounds is one central homeostatic function of hepatocytes. Using the HepatoNet1 model, we investigated, as another example of a complex metabolic objective dependent on systemic physiological parameters, how the consumption of oxygen, glucose and palmitate is affected when an external nitrogen load is converted in varying proportions to the non-toxic nitrogen compounds: urea, glutamine and alanine. The results reveal strong dependencies between the available level of oxygen and the substrate demand of hepatocytes required for effective ammonia detoxification by the liver.
Oxygen demand is highest if nitrogen is exclusively transformed into urea. At lower fluxes into urea, an intriguing pattern for oxygen demand is predicted: oxygen demand attains a minimum if the nitrogen load is directed to urea, glutamine and alanine with relative fluxes of 0.17, 0.43 and 0.40, respectively (Figure 2A). Oxygen demand in this flux distribution is four times lower than for the maximum (100% urea) and still 77 and 33% lower than using alanine and glutamine as exclusive nitrogen compounds, respectively. This computationally predicted tendency is consistent with the notion that the zonation of ammonia detoxification, that is the preferential conversion of ammonia to urea in periportal hepatocytes and to glutamine in perivenous hepatocytes, is dictated by the availability of oxygen (Gebhardt, 1992; Jungermann and Kietzmann, 2000). The decreased oxygen demand in flux distributions using higher proportions of glutamine or alanine is accompanied by increased uptake of the substrates glucose and palmitate (Figure 2B). This is due to an increased demand of energy and carbon for the amidation and transamination of glutamate and pyruvate to discharge nitrogen in the form of glutamine and alanine, respectively. In terms of both scope and specificity, our model bridges the scale between models constructed specifically to examine distinct metabolic processes of the liver and modeling based on a global representation of human metabolism. The former include models for the interdependence of gluconeogenesis and fatty-acid catabolism (Chalhoub et al, 2007), impairment of glucose production in von Gierke's and Hers' diseases (Beard and Qian, 2005) and other processes (Calik and Akbay, 2000; Stucki and Urbanczik, 2005; Ohno et al, 2008). The hallmark of these models is that each of them focuses on a small number of reactions pertinent to the metabolic function of interest embedded in a customized representation of the principal pathways of central metabolism. HepatoNet1, currently, outperforms liver-specific models computationally predicted (Shlomi et al, 2008) on the basis of global reconstructions of human metabolism (Duarte et al, 2007; Ma and Goryanin, 2008). In contrast to either of the aforementioned modeling scales, HepatoNet1 provides the combination of a system-scale representation of metabolic activities and representation of the cell type-specific physical boundaries and their specific transport capacities. This allows for a highly versatile use of the model for the analysis of various liver-specific physiological functions. Conceptually, from a biological system perspective, this type of model offers a large degree of comprehensiveness, whereas retaining tissue specificity, a fundamental design principle of mammalian metabolism. HepatoNet1 is expected to provide a structural platform for computational studies on liver function. The results presented herein highlight how internal fluxes of hepatocyte metabolism and the interplay with systemic physiological parameters can be analyzed with constraint-based modeling techniques. At the same time, the framework may serve as a scaffold for complementation of kinetic and regulatory properties of enzymes and transporters for analysis of sub-networks with topological or kinetic modeling methods.
We present HepatoNet1, the first reconstruction of a comprehensive metabolic network of the human hepatocyte that is shown to accomplish a large canon of known metabolic liver functions. The network comprises 777 metabolites in six intracellular and two extracellular compartments and 2539 reactions, including 1466 transport reactions. It is based on the manual evaluation of >1500 original scientific research publications to warrant a high-quality evidence-based model. The final network is the result of an iterative process of data compilation and rigorous computational testing of network functionality by means of constraint-based modeling techniques. Taking the hepatic detoxification of ammonia as an example, we show how the availability of nutrients and oxygen may modulate the interplay of various metabolic pathways to allow an efficient response of the liver to perturbations of the homeostasis of blood compounds.
PMCID: PMC2964118  PMID: 20823849
computational biology; flux balance; liver; minimal flux
24.  H2-Independent Growth of the Hydrogenotrophic Methanogen Methanococcus maripaludis 
mBio  2013;4(2):e00062-13.
Hydrogenotrophic methanogenic Archaea require reduced ferredoxin as an anaplerotic source of electrons for methanogenesis. H2 oxidation by the hydrogenase Eha provides these electrons, consistent with an H2 requirement for growth. Here we report the identification of alternative pathways of ferredoxin reduction in Methanococcus maripaludis that operate independently of Eha to stimulate methanogenesis. A suppressor mutation that increased expression of the glycolytic enzyme glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase resulted in a strain capable of H2-independent ferredoxin reduction and growth with formate as the sole electron donor. In this background, it was possible to eliminate all seven hydrogenases of M. maripaludis. Alternatively, carbon monoxide oxidation by carbon monoxide dehydrogenase could also generate reduced ferredoxin that feeds into methanogenesis. In either case, the reduced ferredoxin generated was inefficient at stimulating methanogenesis, resulting in a slow growth phenotype. As methanogenesis is limited by the availability of reduced ferredoxin under these conditions, other electron donors, such as reduced coenzyme F420, should be abundant. Indeed, when F420-reducing hydrogenase was reintroduced into the hydrogenase-free mutant, the equilibrium of H2 production via an F420-dependent formate:H2 lyase activity shifted markedly toward H2 compared to the wild type.
Hydrogenotrophic methanogens are thought to require H2 as a substrate for growth and methanogenesis. Here we show alternative pathways in methanogenic metabolism that alleviate this H2 requirement and demonstrate, for the first time, a hydrogenotrophic methanogen that is capable of growth in the complete absence of H2. The demonstration of alternative pathways in methanogenic metabolism suggests that this important group of organisms is metabolically more versatile than previously thought.
PMCID: PMC3585446  PMID: 23443005
25.  Transcriptomic and metabolomic profiling of Zymomonas mobilis during aerobic and anaerobic fermentations 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:34.
Zymomonas mobilis ZM4 (ZM4) produces near theoretical yields of ethanol with high specific productivity and recombinant strains are able to ferment both C-5 and C-6 sugars. Z. mobilis performs best under anaerobic conditions, but is an aerotolerant organism. However, the genetic and physiological basis of ZM4's response to various stresses is understood poorly.
In this study, transcriptomic and metabolomic profiles for ZM4 aerobic and anaerobic fermentations were elucidated by microarray analysis and by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), gas chromatography (GC) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analyses. In the absence of oxygen, ZM4 consumed glucose more rapidly, had a higher growth rate, and ethanol was the major end-product. Greater amounts of other end-products such as acetate, lactate, and acetoin were detected under aerobic conditions and at 26 h there was only 1.7% of the amount of ethanol present aerobically as there was anaerobically. In the early exponential growth phase, significant differences in gene expression were not observed between aerobic and anaerobic conditions via microarray analysis. HPLC and GC analyses revealed minor differences in extracellular metabolite profiles at the corresponding early exponential phase time point.
Differences in extracellular metabolite profiles between conditions became greater as the fermentations progressed. GC-MS analysis of stationary phase intracellular metabolites indicated that ZM4 contained lower levels of amino acids such as alanine, valine and lysine, and other metabolites like lactate, ribitol, and 4-hydroxybutanoate under anaerobic conditions relative to aerobic conditions. Stationary phase microarray analysis revealed that 166 genes were significantly differentially expressed by more than two-fold. Transcripts for Entner-Doudoroff (ED) pathway genes (glk, zwf, pgl, pgk, and eno) and gene pdc, encoding a key enzyme leading to ethanol production, were at least 30-fold more abundant under anaerobic conditions in the stationary phase based on quantitative-PCR results. We also identified differentially expressed ZM4 genes predicted by The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) that were not predicted in the primary annotation.
High oxygen concentrations present during Z. mobilis fermentations negatively influence fermentation performance. The maximum specific growth rates were not dramatically different between aerobic and anaerobic conditions, yet oxygen did affect the physiology of the cells leading to the buildup of metabolic byproducts that ultimately led to greater differences in transcriptomic profiles in stationary phase.
PMCID: PMC2651186  PMID: 19154596

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