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J Biol Chem. 1996 Apr 26;271(17):10060-5.

Glycine betaine fluxes in Lactobacillus plantarum during osmostasis and hyper- and hypo-osmotic shock.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, NL-9751 NN Haren, The Netherlands.


Bacteria respond to changes in medium osmolarity by varying the concentrations of specific solutes in order to maintain constant turgor. The primary response of Lactobacillus plantarum to an osmotic upshock involves the accumulation of compatible solutes such as glycine betaine, proline, and glutamate. We have studied the osmotic regulation of glycine betaine transport in L. plantarum by measuring the overall and unidirectional rates of glycine betaine uptake and exit at osmostasis, and under conditions of osmotic upshock and downshock. At steady state conditions, a basal flux of glycine betaine (but no net uptake or efflux) is observed that amounts to about 20% of the rate of "activated"' uptake (uptake at high osmolarity). No direct exchange of 14C-labeled glycine betaine in the medium for unlabeled glycine betaine in the cytoplasm was observed in glucose metabolizing and resting cells, indicating that a separate glycine betaine efflux system is responsible for the exit of glycine betaine. Upon osmotic upshock, the uptake system for glycine betaine is rapidly activated (within seconds), whereas the basal efflux is inhibited. These two responses account for a rapid accumulation of glycine betaine until osmostasis is reached. Upon osmotic downshock, glycine betaine is rapidly released by the cells in a process that has two kinetic components, i.e. one with a half-life of less than 2 s which is unaffected by the metabolic status of the cells, the other with a half-life of 4-5 min in glucose-metabolizing cells which is dependent on internal pH or a related parameter. We speculate that the former activity corresponds to a stretch-activated channel, whereas the latter may be facilitated by a carrier protein. Glycine betaine uptake is strongly inhibited immediately after an osmotic downshock, but slowly recovers in time. These studies demonstrate that in L. plantarum osmostasis is maintained through positive and negative regulation of both glycine betaine uptake and efflux, of which activation of uptake upon osmotic upshock and activation of a "channel-like" activity upon osmotic downshock are quantitatively most important.

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