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Adv Microb Physiol. 1999;41:47-92.

Fungal production of citric and oxalic acid: importance in metal speciation, physiology and biogeochemical processes.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Dundee, UK.

Abstract

The production of organic acids by fungi has profound implications for metal speciation, physiology and biogeochemical cycles. Biosynthesis of oxalic acid from glucose occurs by hydrolysis of oxaloacetate to oxalate and acetate catalysed by cytosolic oxaloacetase, whereas on citric acid, oxalate production occurs by means of glyoxylate oxidation. Citric acid is an intermediate in the tricarboxylic acid cycle, with metals greatly influencing biosynthesis: growth limiting concentrations of Mn, Fe and Zn are important for high yields. The metal-complexing properties of these organic acids assist both essential metal and anionic (e.g. phosphate) nutrition of fungi, other microbes and plants, and determine metal speciation and mobility in the environment, including transfer between terrestrial and aquatic habitats, biocorrosion and weathering. Metal solubilization processes are also of potential for metal recovery and reclamation from contaminated solid wastes, soils and low-grade ores. Such 'heterotrophic leaching' can occur by several mechanisms but organic acids occupy a central position in the overall process, supplying both protons and a metal-complexing organic acid anion. Most simple metal oxalates [except those of alkali metals, Fe(III) and Al] are sparingly soluble and precipitate as crystalline or amorphous solids. Calcium oxalate is the most important manifestation of this in the environment and, in a variety of crystalline structures, is ubiquitously associated with free-living, plant symbiotic and pathogenic fungi. The main forms are the monohydrate (whewellite) and the dihydrate (weddelite) and their formation is of significance in biomineralization, since they affect nutritional heterogeneity in soil, especially Ca, P, K and Al cycling. The formation of insoluble toxic metal oxalates, e.g. of Cu, may confer tolerance and ensure survival in contaminated environments. In semi-arid environments, calcium oxalate formation is important in the formation and alteration of terrestrial subsurface limestones. Oxalate also plays an important role in lignocellulose degradation and plant pathogenesis, affecting activities of key enzymes and metal oxido-reduction reactions, therefore underpinning one of the most fundamental roles of fungi in carbon cycling in the natural environment. This review discusses the physiology and chemistry of citric and oxalic acid production in fungi, the intimate association of these acids and processes with metal speciation, physiology and mobility, and their importance and involvement in key fungal-mediated processes, including lignocellulose degradation, plant pathogenesis and metal biogeochemistry.

PMID:
10500844
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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