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J Bacteriol. Mar 1974; 117(3): 1248–1260.
PMCID: PMC246608

Two Pathways of Glutamate Fermentation by Anaerobic Bacteria

Abstract

Two pathways are involved in the fermentation of glutamate to acetate, butyrate, carbon dioxide, and ammonia—the methylaspartate and the hydroxyglutarate pathways which are used by Clostridium tetanomorphum and Peptococcus aerogenes, respectively. Although these pathways give rise to the same products, they are easily distinguished by different labeling patterns of the butyrate when [4-14C]glutamate is used as substrate. Schmidt degradation of the radioactive butyrate from C. tetanomorphum yielded equally labeled propionate and carbon dioxide, whereas nearly all the radioactivity of the butyrate from P. aerogenes was recovered in the corresponding propionate. This procedure was used as a test for the pathway of glutamate fermentation by 15 strains (9 species) of anaerobic bacteria. The labeling patterns of the butyrate indicate that glutamate is fermented via the methylaspartate pathway by C. tetani, C. cochlearium, and C. saccarobutyricum, and via the hydroxyglutarate pathway by Acidaminococcus fermentans, C. microsporum, Fusobacterium nucleatum, and F. fusiformis. Enzymes specific for each pathway were assayed in crude extracts of the above organisms. 3-Methylaspartase was found only in clostridia which use the methylaspartate pathway, including Clostridium SB4 and C. sticklandii, which probably degrade glutamate to acetate and carbon dioxide by using a second amino acid as hydrogen acceptor. High levels of 2-hydroxyglutarate dehydrogenase were found exclusively in organisms that use the hydroxyglutarate pathway. The data indicate that only two pathways are involved in the fermentation of glutamate by the bacteria analyzed. The methylaspartate pathway appears to be used only by species of Clostridium, whereas the hydroxyglutarate pathway is used by representatives of several genera.

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