Enzymic and genetic basis for bacterial growth on malonate

Mol Microbiol. 1997 Jul;25(1):3-10. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1997.4611824.x.


Various bacteria are able to grow aerobically or anaerobically on malonate as sole source of carbon and energy. Independent of the mechanism for energy conservation, the decarboxylation of malonate is the key reaction in the decomposition of this compound. To achieve malonate decarboxylation under physiological conditions, the substrate must be converted into an activated (thioester) derivative. We report here on the malonate decarboxylases of Malonomonas rubra and Klebsiella pneumoniae. These enzymes perform an interesting substrate activation mechanism by generating a malonyl thioester with the enzyme. Formation of the malonyl-S-enzyme involves an 'activation module' that comprises the acetylation of a specific thiol group of an acyl carrier protein (ACP) and the transfer of the ACP moiety to malonate, yielding malonyl-S-ACP and acetate. The malonyl-S-ACP is subsequently decarboxylated with regeneration of the acetyl-ACP. The malonate activation mechanism is related to the activation of citrate by citrate lyase. The relationship extends to the identical 2'-(5''-phosphoribosyl)-3'-dephospho-CoA thiol cofactor that is bound covalently to the corresponding ACP subunit. In Klebsiella pneumoniae, malonate is decarboxylated by a water-soluble enzyme complex. In the anaerobic bacterium Malonomonas rubra, malonate decarboxylation is catalysed by a set of water-soluble as well as membrane-bound enzymes that function together in converting the free energy of the decarboxylation reaction into delta muNa+. Therefore, this malonate decarboxylase includes a biotin carrier protein that accepts the CO2 moiety from malonyl-S-ACP and delivers it to a membrane-bound decarboxylase acting as a Na+ pump. Genes encoding the individual protein components that perform the decarboxylation of malonate in K. pneumoniae or M. rubra have been identified within the mdc and mad gene clusters respectively. The function of most of the derived proteins could be envisaged from sequence similarities with proteins of known functions. The genetic evidence firmly supports the idea that malonate decarboxylation is carried out by the two different decarboxylases, as deduced from the biochemical studies of the enzymes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Carboxy-Lyases / genetics
  • Genes, Bacterial / physiology
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae / enzymology
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae / genetics
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae / growth & development*
  • Malonates / metabolism*
  • Operon
  • Proteobacteria / enzymology
  • Proteobacteria / genetics
  • Proteobacteria / growth & development*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Malonates
  • malonic acid
  • Carboxy-Lyases
  • malonate decarboxylase