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J Bacteriol. 2001 Dec;183(24):7308-17.

Bacillus subtilis metabolism and energetics in carbon-limited and excess-carbon chemostat culture.

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  • 1Institute of Biotechnology, ETH Zürich, CH-8093 Zürich, Switzerland.


The energetic efficiency of microbial growth is significantly reduced in cultures growing under glucose excess compared to cultures growing under glucose limitation, but the magnitude to which different energy-dissipating processes contribute to the reduced efficiency is currently not well understood. We introduce here a new concept for balancing the total cellular energy flux that is based on the conversion of energy and carbon fluxes into energy equivalents, and we apply this concept to glucose-, ammonia-, and phosphate-limited chemostat cultures of riboflavin-producing Bacillus subtilis. Based on [U-(13)C(6)]glucose-labeling experiments and metabolic flux analysis, the total energy flux in slow-growing, glucose-limited B. subtilis is almost exclusively partitioned in maintenance metabolism and biomass formation. In excess-glucose cultures, in contrast, uncoupling of anabolism and catabolism is primarily achieved by overflow metabolism, while two quantified futile enzyme cycles and metabolic shifts to energetically less efficient pathways are negligible. In most cultures, about 20% of the total energy flux could not be assigned to a particular energy-consuming process and thus are probably dissipated by processes such as ion leakage that are not being considered at present. In contrast to glucose- or ammonia-limited cultures, metabolic flux analysis revealed low tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle fluxes in phosphate-limited B. subtilis, which is consistent with CcpA-dependent catabolite repression of the cycle and/or transcriptional activation of genes involved in overflow metabolism in the presence of excess glucose. ATP-dependent control of in vivo enzyme activity appears to be irrelevant for the observed differences in TCA cycle fluxes.

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