Role of glyoxylate shunt in oxidative stress response [Microbiology]

April 1st, 2016 by Ahn, S., Jung, J., Jang, I.-A., Madsen, E. L., Park, W.

The glyoxylate shunt (GS) is a two-step metabolic pathway (isocitrate lyase, aceA; and malate synthase, glcB) that serves as an alternative to the TCA cycle. The GS bypasses the carbon dioxide-producing steps of the TCA cycle and is essential for acetate and fatty acid metabolism in bacteria. GS can be upregulated under conditions of oxidative stress, antibiotic stress, and host infection, which implies that it plays important but poorly explored roles in stress defense and pathogenesis. In many bacterial species, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, aceA and glcB are not in an operon, unlike in Escherichia coli. In P. aeruginosa, we explored relationships between GS genes and growth, transcription profiles, and biofilm formation. Contrary to our expectations, deletion of aceA in P. aeruginosa improved cell growth under conditions of oxidative and antibiotic stress. Transcriptome data suggested that aceA mutants underwent a metabolic shift toward aerobic denitrification; this was supported by additional evidence, including upregulation of denitrification-related genes, decreased oxygen consumption without lowering ATP yield, increased production of denitrification intermediates (NO and N2O), and increased cyanide resistance. The aceA mutants also produced a thicker exopolysaccharide layer: a phenotype consistent with aerobic denitrification. A bioinformatic survey across known bacterial genomes showed that only microorganisms capable of aerobic metabolism possess the glyoxylate shunt. This trend is consistent with the hypothesis that the GS plays a previously unrecognized role in allowing bacteria to tolerate oxidative stress.