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J Bacteriol. May 1994; 176(10): 2814–2821.
PMCID: PMC205434

Inhibition of fatty acid synthesis in Escherichia coli in the absence of phospholipid synthesis and release of inhibition by thioesterase action.


The effects of inhibition of Escherichia coli phospholipid synthesis on the accumulation of intermediates of the fatty acid synthetic pathway have been previously investigated with conflicting results. We report construction of an E. coli strain that allows valid [14C]acetate labeling of fatty acids under these conditions. In this strain, acetate is a specific precursor of fatty acid synthesis and the intracellular acetate pools are not altered by blockage of phospholipid synthesis. By use of this strain, we show that significant pools of fatty acid synthetic intermediates and free fatty acids accumulate during inhibition of phospholipid synthesis and that the rate of synthesis of these intermediates is 10 to 20% of the rate at which fatty acids are synthesized during normal growth. Free fatty acids of abnormal chain length (e.g., cis-13-eicosenoic acid) were found to accumulate in glycerol-starved cultures. Analysis of extracts of [35S]methionine-labeled cells showed that glycerol starvation resulted in the accumulation of several long-chain acyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) species, with the major species being ACP acylated with cis-13-eicosenoic acid. Upon the restoration of phospholipid biosynthesis, the abnormally long-chain acyl-ACPs decreased, consistent with transfer of the acyl groups to phospholipid. The introduction of multicopy plasmids that greatly overproduced either E. coli thioesterase I or E. coli thioesterase II fully relieved the inhibition of fatty acid synthesis seen upon glycerol starvation, whereas overexpression of ACP had no effect. Thioesterase I overproduction also resulted in disappearance of the long-chain acyl-ACP species. The release of inhibition by thiosterase overproduction, together with the correlation between the inhibition of fatty acid synthesis and the presence of abnormally long-chain acyl-ACPs, suggests with that these acyl-ACP species may act as feedback inhibitors of a key fatty acid synthetic enzyme(s).

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Selected References

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