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Open Access Research

Consequences of phosphoenolpyruvate:sugar phosphotranferase system and pyruvate kinase isozymes inactivation in central carbon metabolism flux distribution in Escherichia coli

Eugenio Meza1, Judith Becker2, Francisco Bolivar1, Guillermo Gosset1 and Christoph Wittmann2*

Author Affiliations

1 Cellular Engineering and Biocatalysis Department, Biotechnology Institute, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apdo. Postal 510-3, Cuernavaca, Morelos, 62210, Mexico

2 Institute of Biochemical Engineering, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Gaußstr. 17, D-38106, Braunschweig, Germany

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Microbial Cell Factories 2012, 11:127  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-127

Published: 13 September 2012

Abstract

Background

In Escherichia coli phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) is a key central metabolism intermediate that participates in glucose transport, as precursor in several biosynthetic pathways and it is involved in allosteric regulation of glycolytic enzymes. In this work we generated W3110 derivative strains that lack the main PEP consumers PEP:sugar phosphotransferase system (PTS-) and pyruvate kinase isozymes PykA and PykF (PTS-pykA- and PTS-pykF-). To characterize the effects of these modifications on cell physiology, carbon flux distribution and aromatics production capacity were determined.

Results

When compared to reference strain W3110, strain VH33 (PTS-) displayed lower specific rates for growth, glucose consumption and acetate production as well as a higher biomass yield from glucose. These phenotypic effects were even more pronounced by the additional inactivation of PykA or PykF. Carbon flux analysis revealed that PTS inactivation causes a redirection of metabolic flux towards biomass formation. A cycle involving PEP carboxylase (Ppc) and PEP carboxykinase (Pck) was detected in all strains. In strains W3110, VH33 (PTS-) and VH35 (PTS-, pykF-), the net flux in this cycle was inversely correlated with the specific rate of glucose consumption and inactivation of Pck in these strains caused a reduction in growth rate. In the PTS- background, inactivation of PykA caused a reduction in Ppc and Pck cycling as well as a reduction in flux to TCA, whereas inactivation of PykF caused an increase in anaplerotic flux from PEP to OAA and an increased flux to TCA. The wild-type and mutant strains were modified to overproduce L-phenylalanine. In resting cells experiments, compared to reference strain, a 10, 4 and 7-fold higher aromatics yields from glucose were observed as consequence of PTS, PTS PykA and PTS PykF inactivation.

Conclusions

Metabolic flux analysis performed on strains lacking the main activities generating pyruvate from PEP revealed the high degree of flexibility to perturbations of the central metabolic network in E. coli. The observed responses to reduced glucose uptake and PEP to pyruvate rate of conversion caused by PTS, PykA and PykF inactivation included flux rerouting in several central metabolism nodes towards anabolic biosynthetic reactions, thus compensating for carbon limitation in these mutant strains. The detected cycle involving Ppc and Pck was found to be required for maintaining the specific growth and glucose consumption rates in all studied strains. Strains VH33 (PTS-), VH34 (PTS-pykA-) and VH35 (PTS-pykF-) have useful properties for biotechnological processes, such as increased PEP availability and high biomass yields from glucose, making them useful for the production of aromatic compounds or recombinant proteins.

Keywords:
PTS; Pyruvate kinase; Aromatic amino acids