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Eur J Biochem. 2004 Aug;271(15):3227-41.

On the mechanism of action of the antifungal agent propionate.

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Laboratorium für Mikrobiologie, Universität Hannover, Germany.


Propionate is used to protect bread and animal feed from moulds. The mode of action of this short-chain fatty acid was studied using Aspergillus nidulans as a model organism. The filamentous fungus is able to grow slowly on propionate, which is oxidized to acetyl-CoA via propionyl-CoA, methylcitrate and pyruvate. Propionate inhibits growth of A. nidulans on glucose but not on acetate; the latter was shown to inhibit propionate oxidation. When grown on glucose a methylcitrate synthase deletion mutant is much more sensitive towards the presence of propionate in the medium as compared to the wild-type and accumulates 10-fold higher levels of propionyl-CoA, which inhibits CoA-dependent enzymes such as pyruvate dehydrogenase, succinyl-CoA synthetase and ATP citrate lyase. The most important inhibition is that of pyruvate dehydrogenase, as this affects glucose and propionate metabolism directly. In contrast, the blocked succinyl-CoA synthetase can be circumvented by a succinyl-CoA:acetate/propionate CoA-transferase, whereas ATP citrate lyase is required only for biosynthetic purposes. In addition, data are presented that correlate inhibition of fungal polyketide synthesis by propionyl-CoA with the accumulation of this CoA-derivative. A possible toxicity of propionyl-CoA for humans in diseases such as propionic acidaemia and methylmalonic aciduria is also discussed.

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