Open Access Research

Extensive exometabolome analysis reveals extended overflow metabolism in various microorganisms

Nicole Paczia, Anke Nilgen, Tobias Lehmann, Jochem Gätgens, Wolfgang Wiechert and Stephan Noack*

Author Affiliations

Institute of Bio- and Geosciences, Biotechnology, Systems Biotechnology, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Jülich, Germany

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Microbial Cell Factories 2012, 11:122  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-122

Published: 11 September 2012


Overflow metabolism is well known for yeast, bacteria and mammalian cells. It typically occurs under glucose excess conditions and is characterized by excretions of by-products such as ethanol, acetate or lactate. This phenomenon, also denoted the short-term Crabtree effect, has been extensively studied over the past few decades, however, its basic regulatory mechanism and functional role in metabolism is still unknown. Here we present a comprehensive quantitative and time-dependent analysis of the exometabolome of Escherichia coli, Corynebacterium glutamicum, Bacillus licheniformis, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae during well-controlled bioreactor cultivations. Most surprisingly, in all cases a great diversity of central metabolic intermediates and amino acids is found in the culture medium with extracellular concentrations varying in the micromolar range. Different hypotheses for these observations are formulated and experimentally tested. As a result, the intermediates in the culture medium during batch growth must originate from passive or active transportation due to a new phenomenon termed “extended” overflow metabolism. Moreover, we provide broad evidence that this could be a common feature of all microorganism species when cultivated under conditions of carbon excess and non-inhibited carbon uptake. In turn, this finding has consequences for metabolite balancing and, particularly, for intracellular metabolite quantification and 13C-metabolic flux analysis.

Overflow metabolism; Crabtree effect; Exometabolome; Mass spectrometry; Intracellular metabolite quantification