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Microb Cell Fact. 2008 Jun 18;7:19. doi: 10.1186/1475-2859-7-19.

Maintenance metabolism and carbon fluxes in Bacillus species.

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Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, ETH Zurich, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland.



Selection of an appropriate host organism is crucial for the economic success of biotechnological processes. A generally important selection criterion is a low maintenance energy metabolism to reduce non-productive consumption of substrate. We here investigated, whether various bacilli that are closely related to Bacillus subtilis are potential riboflavin production hosts with low maintenance metabolism.


While B. subtilis exhibited indeed the highest maintenance energy coefficient, B. licheniformis and B. amyloliquefaciens exhibited only statistically insignificantly reduced maintenance metabolism. Both B. pumilus and B. subtilis (natto) exhibited irregular growth patterns under glucose limitation such that the maintenance metabolism could not be determined. The sole exception with significantly reduced maintenance energy requirements was the B. licheniformis strain T380B. The frequently used spo0A mutation significantly increased the maintenance metabolism of B. subtilis.At the level of 13C-detected intracellular fluxes, all investigated bacilli exhibited a significant flux through the pentose phosphate pathway, a prerequisite for efficient riboflavin production. Different from all other species, B. subtilis featured high respiratory tricarboxylic acid cycle fluxes in batch and chemostat cultures. In particular under glucose-limited conditions, this led to significant excess formation of NADPH of B. subtilis, while anabolic consumption was rather balanced with catabolic NADPH formation in the other bacilli.


Despite its successful commercial production of riboflavin, B. subtilis does not seem to be the optimal cell factory from a bioenergetic point of view. The best choice of the investigated strains is the sporulation-deficient B. licheniformis T380B strain. Beside a low maintenance energy coefficient, this strain grows robustly under different conditions and exhibits only moderate acetate overflow, hence making it a promising production host for biochemicals and riboflavin in particular.

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