The methylcitric acid pathway in Ralstonia eutropha: new genes identified involved in propionate metabolism

Microbiology (Reading). 2001 Aug;147(Pt 8):2203-2214. doi: 10.1099/00221287-147-8-2203.


From Ralstonia eutropha HF39 null-allele mutants were created by Tn5 mutagenesis and by homologous recombination which were impaired in growth on propionic acid and levulinic acid. From the molecular, physiological and enzymic analysis of these mutants it was concluded that in this bacterium propionic acid is metabolized via the methylcitric acid pathway. The genes encoding enzymes of this pathway are organized in a cluster in the order prpR, prpB, prpC, acnM, ORF5 and prpD, with prpR transcribed divergently from the other genes. (i) prpC encodes a 2-methylcitric acid synthase (42720 Da) as shown by the measurement of the respective enzyme activity, complementation of a prpC mutant of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and high sequence similarity. (ii) For the translational product of acnM the function of a 2-methyl-cis-aconitic acid hydratase (94726 Da) is proposed. This protein and also the ORF5 translational product are essential for growth on propionic acid, as revealed by the propionic-acid-negative phenotype of Tn5-insertion mutants, and are required for the conversion of 2-methylcitric acid into 2-methylisocitric acid as shown by the accumulation of the latter, which could be purified as its calcium salt from the supernatants of these mutants. In contrast, inactivation of prpD did not block the ability of the cell to use propionic acid as carbon and energy source, as shown by the propionic acid phenotype of a null-allele mutant. It is therefore unlikely that prpD from R. eutropha encodes a 2-methyl-cis-aconitic acid dehydratase as proposed recently for the homologous prpD gene from S. enterica. (iii) The translational product of prpB encodes 2-methylisocitric acid lyase (32314 Da) as revealed by measurement of the respective enzyme activity and by demonstrating accumulation of methylisocitric acid in the supernatant of a prpB null-allele mutant. (iv) The expression of prpC and probably also of the other enzymes is regulated and is induced during cultivation on propionic acid or levulinic acid. The putative translational product of prpR (70895 Da) exhibited high similarities to PrpR of Escherichia coli and S. enterica, and might represent a transcriptional activator of the sigma-54 family involved in the regulation of the other prp genes. Since the prp locus of R. eutropha was very different from those of E. coli and S. enterica, an extensive comparison of prp loci available from databases and literature was done, revealing two different classes of prp loci.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase / genetics
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase / metabolism
  • Citrates / metabolism*
  • Cupriavidus necator / genetics*
  • Cupriavidus necator / growth & development
  • Cupriavidus necator / metabolism
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Levulinic Acids / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Phenotype
  • Propionates / metabolism*
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Citrates
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Levulinic Acids
  • Propionates
  • 2-methylcitric acid
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase
  • methylcitrate synthase
  • levulinic acid

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF325554
  • GENBANK/AF331923