Demonstration of the ethylmalonyl-CoA pathway by using 13C metabolomics

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Mar 24;106(12):4846-51. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0810932106. Epub 2009 Mar 4.


The assimilation of one-carbon (C1) compounds, such as methanol, by serine cycle methylotrophs requires the continuous regeneration of glyoxylate. Instead of the glyoxylate cycle, this process is achieved by a not yet established pathway where CoA thioesters are known to play a key role. We applied state-of-the-art metabolomics and (13)C metabolomics strategies to demonstrate how glyoxylate is generated during methylotrophic growth in the isocitrate lyase-negative methylotroph Methylobacterium extorquens AM1. High-resolution mass spectrometry showed the presence of CoA thioesters specific to the recently proposed ethylmalonyl-CoA pathway. The operation of this pathway was demonstrated by short-term (13)C-labeling experiments, which allowed determination of the sequence of reactions from the order of label incorporation into the different CoA derivatives. Analysis of (13)C positional enrichment in glycine by NMR was consistent with the predicted labeling pattern as a result of the operation of the ethylmalonyl-CoA pathway and the unique operation of the latter for glyoxylate generation during growth on methanol. The results also revealed that 2 molecules of glyoxylate were regenerated in this process. This work provides a complete pathway for methanol assimilation in the model methylotroph M. extorquens AM1 and represents an important step toward the determination of the overall topology of its metabolic network. The operation of the ethylmalonyl-CoA pathway in M. extorquens AM1 has major implications for the physiology of these methylotrophs and their role in nature, and it also provides a common ground for C1 and C2 compound assimilation in isocitrate lyase-negative bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyl Coenzyme A / chemistry
  • Acyl Coenzyme A / metabolism*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Esters / metabolism
  • Glycine / chemistry
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Glyoxylates / metabolism
  • Isomerism
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Kinetics
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Methanol / metabolism
  • Methylobacterium extorquens / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Acyl Coenzyme A
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Esters
  • Glyoxylates
  • ethylmalonyl-coenzyme A
  • propionyl-coenzyme A
  • Glycine
  • Methanol