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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1988 Jun;54(6):1318-24.

Role of the arginine deiminase system in protecting oral bacteria and an enzymatic basis for acid tolerance.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Rochester, New York 14642.


The arginine deiminase system was found to function in protecting bacterial cells against the damaging effects of acid environments. For example, as little as 2.9 mM arginine added to acidified suspensions of Streptococcus sanguis at a pH of 4.0 resulted in ammonia production and protection against killing. The arginine deiminase system was found to have unusual acid tolerance in a variety of lactic acid bacteria. For example, for Streptococcus rattus FA-1, the pH at which arginolysis was reduced to 10% of the maximum was between 2.1 and 2.6, or more than 1 full pH unit below the minimum for glycolysis (pH 3.7), and more than 2 units below the minimum for growth in complex medium (pH 4.7). The acid tolerance of the arginine deiminase system appeared to be primarily molecular and to depend on the tolerance of individual enzymes rather than on the membrane physiology of the bacteria; pH profiles for the activities of arginine deiminase, ornithine carbamoyltransferase, and carbamate kinase in permeabilized cells showed that the enzymes were active at pHs of 3.1 or somewhat lower. Overall, it appeared that ammonia could be produced from arginine at low pH values, even by cells with damaged membranes, and that the ammonia could then protect the cells against acid damage until the environmental pH value rose sufficiently to allow for the reestablishment of a difference in pH (delta pH) across the cell membrane.

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