Alternative route for glyoxylate consumption during growth on two-carbon compounds by Methylobacterium extorquens AM1

J Bacteriol. 2010 Apr;192(7):1813-23. doi: 10.1128/JB.01166-09. Epub 2010 Jan 29.


Methylobacterium extorquens AM1 is a facultative methylotroph capable of growth on both single-carbon and multicarbon compounds. Mutants defective in a pathway involved in converting acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) to glyoxylate (the ethylmalonyl-CoA pathway) are unable to grow on both C(1) and C(2) compounds, showing that both modes of growth have this pathway in common. However, growth on C(2) compounds via the ethylmalonyl-CoA pathway should require glyoxylate consumption via malate synthase, but a mutant lacking malyl-CoA/beta-methylmalyl-CoA lyase activity (MclA1) that is assumed to be responsible for malate synthase activity still grows on C(2) compounds. Since glyoxylate is toxic to this bacterium, it seemed likely that a system is in place to keep it from accumulating. In this study, we have addressed this question and have shown by microarray analysis, mutant analysis, metabolite measurements, and (13)C-labeling experiments that M. extorquens AM1 contains an additional malyl-CoA/beta-methylmalyl-CoA lyase (MclA2) that appears to take part in glyoxylate metabolism during growth on C(2) compounds. In addition, an alternative pathway appears to be responsible for consuming part of the glyoxylate, converting it to glycine, methylene-H(4)F, and serine. Mutants lacking either pathway have a partial defect for growth on ethylamine, while mutants lacking both pathways are unable to grow appreciably on ethylamine. Our results suggest that the malate synthase reaction is a bottleneck for growth on C(2) compounds by this bacterium, which is partially alleviated by this alternative route for glyoxylate consumption. This strategy of multiple enzymes/pathways for the consumption of a toxic intermediate reflects the metabolic versatility of this facultative methylotroph and is a model for other metabolic networks involving high flux through toxic intermediates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Carbon Isotopes / metabolism
  • Ethylamines / metabolism
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Glyoxylates / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Metabolome
  • Methylobacterium extorquens / metabolism*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Oxo-Acid-Lyases / genetics
  • Serine / metabolism
  • Tetrahydrofolates / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Ethylamines
  • Glyoxylates
  • Tetrahydrofolates
  • 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolic acid
  • Serine
  • Carbon
  • Oxo-Acid-Lyases
  • malyl-CoA lyase
  • glyoxylic acid
  • Glycine
  • ethylamine