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J Bacteriol. 1996 Jul;178(13):3978-81.

A glutamate-dependent acid resistance gene in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Biology, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 43022, USA.


Stationary-phase cultures of Escherichia coli can survive several hours or exposure to extreme acid (pH 2 to 3), a level well below the pH range for growth (pH 4.5 to 9). To identify the genes needed for survival in extreme acid, a microliter screening procedure was devised. Colonies from a Tn10 transposon pool in E. coli MC4100 were inoculated into buffered Luria broth, pH 7.0, in microtiter wells, grown overnight, and then diluted in Luria broth, pH 2.5, at 37 degrees C for 2 h. From 3,000 isolates screened, 3 Tet(r) strains were identified as extremely acid sensitive (<0.1% survival at pH 2.5 for 2 h). Flanking sequences of the Tn10 inserts were amplified by inverse PCR. The sequences encoded a hydrophobic partial peptide of 88 residues. A random-primer-generated probe hybridized to Kohara clones 279 and 280 at 32 min (33.7 min on the revised genomic map EcoMap7) near gadB (encoding glutamate decarboxylase). The gene was designated xasA for extreme acid sensitive. xasA::Tn10 strains grown at pH 7 to 8 showed 100-fold-less survival in acid than the parent strain. Growth in mild acid (pH 5 to 6) restored acid resistance; anaerobiosis was not required, as it is for acid resistance in rpoS strains. xasA::Tn10 eliminated enhancement of acid resistance by glutamic acid. xasA was found to be a homolog of gadC recently sequenced in Shigella flexneri, in which it appears to encode a permease for the decarboxylated product of GadB. These results suggest that GadC (XasA) participates in a glutamate decarboxylase alkalinization cycle to protect E. coli from cytoplasmic acidification. The role of the glutamate cycle is particularly important for cultures grown at neutral pH before exposure to extreme acid.

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