Amino acid-dependent growth of Campylobacter jejuni: key roles for aspartase (AspA) under microaerobic and oxygen-limited conditions and identification of AspB (Cj0762), essential for growth on glutamate

Mol Microbiol. 2008 Jul;69(1):77-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2008.06263.x. Epub 2008 Apr 21.


Amino acids are key carbon and energy sources for the asaccharolytic food-borne human pathogen Campylobacter jejuni. During microaerobic growth in amino acid rich complex media, aspartate, glutamate, proline and serine are the only amino acids significantly utilized by strain NCTC 11168. The catabolism of aspartate and glutamate was investigated. An aspartase (aspA) mutant (unable to utilize any amino acid except serine) and a Cj0762c (aspB) mutant lacking aspartate:glutamate aminotransferase (unable to utilize glutamate), were severely growth impaired in complex media, and an aspA sdaA mutant (also lacking serine dehydratase) failed to grow in complex media unless supplemented with pyruvate and fumarate. Aspartase was shown by activity and proteomic analyses to be upregulated by oxygen limitation, and aspartate enhanced oxygen-limited growth of C. jejuni in an aspA-dependent manner. Stoichiometric aspartate uptake and succinate excretion involving the redundant DcuA and DcuB transporters indicated that in addition to a catabolic role, AspA can provide fumarate for respiration. Significantly, an aspA mutant of C. jejuni 81-176 was impaired in its ability to persist in the intestines of outbred chickens relative to the parent strain. Together, our data highlight the dual function of aspartase in C. jejuni and suggest a role during growth in the avian gut.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / genetics
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / metabolism*
  • Aspartate Ammonia-Lyase / chemistry
  • Aspartate Ammonia-Lyase / genetics
  • Aspartate Ammonia-Lyase / metabolism*
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Campylobacter Infections / microbiology
  • Campylobacter Infections / veterinary
  • Campylobacter jejuni / chemistry
  • Campylobacter jejuni / enzymology*
  • Campylobacter jejuni / genetics
  • Campylobacter jejuni / growth & development*
  • Chickens
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Dicarboxylic Acid Transporters / genetics
  • Dicarboxylic Acid Transporters / metabolism
  • Fumarates / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Mutation
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Amino Acids
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Culture Media
  • Dicarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • Fumarates
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Aspartate Ammonia-Lyase
  • Oxygen