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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1985 Mar;49(3):599-607.

Leucine incorporation and its potential as a measure of protein synthesis by bacteria in natural aquatic systems.


Leucine incorporation was examined as a method for estimating rates of protein synthesis by bacterial assemblages in natural aquatic systems. The proportion of the total bacterial population that took up leucine in three marine environments was high (greater than 50%). Most of the leucine (greater than 90%) taken up was incorporated into protein, and little (less than 20%) was degraded to other amino acids, except in two oligotrophic marine environments. In samples from these two environments, ca. 50% of the leucine incorporated had been degraded to other amino acids, which were subsequently incorporated into protein. The degree of leucine degradation appears to depend on the organic carbon supply, as the proportion of 3H-radioactivity incorporated into protein that was recovered as [3H]leucine after acid hydrolysis increased with the addition of pyruvate to oligotrophic water samples. The addition of extracellular leucine inhibited total incorporation of [14C]pyruvate (a precursor for leucine biosynthesis) into protein. Furthermore, the proportion of [14C]pyruvate incorporation into protein that was recovered as [14C]leucine decreased with the addition of extracellular leucine. These results show that the addition of extracellular leucine inhibits leucine biosynthesis by marine bacterial assemblages. The molar fraction of leucine in a wide variety of proteins is constant, indicating that changes in leucine incorporation rates reflect changes in rates of protein synthesis rather than changes in the leucine content of proteins. The results demonstrate that the incorporation rate of [3H]leucine into a hot trichloroacetic acid-insoluble cell fraction can serve as an index of protein synthesis by bacterial assemblages in aquatic systems.

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