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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 1998 Oct 1;167(1):7-11.

Increased alanine dehydrogenase activity during dormancy in Mycobacterium smegmatis.

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Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore, Singapore.


The aerobic fast-growing Mycobacterium smegmatis has, like its slow-growing pathogenic counterpart M. tuberculosis, the capability to adapt to anaerobiosis by shifting down to a drug resistant dormant state. Here, we report the identification of the first enzyme, L-alanine dehydrogenase, whose specific activity is increased during dormancy development in M. smegmatis. This mycobacterial enzyme activity was previously identified as the 40-kDa antigen in M. tuberculosis and shows a preference for the reductive amination of pyruvate to alanine at physiological pH. The determination of the temporal profile of alanine dehydrogenase activity during dormancy development showed that the activity stayed at a low baseline level during the initial aerobic exponential growth phase (0.7 mU mg-1 min-1). After termination of aerobic growth, alanine dehydrogenase activity increased rapidly 5-fold. As oxygen becomes more and more limiting, the enzyme activity declined until it reached a level about two-third that of the peak value. The strong induction immediately after deflection from aerobic growth suggests that alanine might be required for the adaptation from aerobic growth to anaerobic dormancy. As alanine synthesis is coupled to NADH oxidation, we propose that the induction of alanine dehydrogenase activity might also support the maintenance of the NAD pool when oxygen as a terminal electron acceptor becomes limiting.

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