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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1992 Mar;58(3):891-4.

Conversion of Pyruvate to Acetoin Helps To Maintain pH Homeostasis in Lactobacillus plantarum.

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  • 1Department of Food Science, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Cook College, Rutgers-the State University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903-0231, and Department of Biochemistry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine of the City University of New York, New York, New York 10029.


Pyruvate is the substrate for diacetyl and acetoin synthesis by lactobacilli. Exogenous pyruvate stimulates acetoin production when glucose is present as an energy source. In Lactobacillus plantarum ATCC 8014, the energy derived from glucose via glycolysis generated a constant proton motive force of about -120 mV. At a low external pH, energized cells rapidly transported and accumulated pyruvate but did not do so when they were deenergized by nigericin. When large amounts of pyruvate were transported and subsequently accumulated internally, the cotransported protons rapidly lowered the internal pH. The conversion of pyruvate to acetoin instead of acidic end products contributed to the maintenance of pH homeostasis. This is the first report showing that the conversion of pyruvate to acetoin serves as a mechanism of pH homeostasis.

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