Background: It is important to understand the cellular responses emanating from environmental perturbations to redesign the networks for practical applications. In particular, the carbon (C) metabolism, nitrogen (N) assimilation, and energy generation are by far important, where those are interconnected and integrated to maintain cellular integrity. In our previous study, we investigated the effect of C/N ratio on the metabolic regulation of gdhA, glnL, glt B,D mutants as well as wild type Escherichia coli (Kumar and Shimizu, MCF, 1-17, 9:8,2010), where it was shown that the transcript levels of cyoA and cydB which encode the terminal oxidases, fnr and fur which encode global regulators were significantly up-regulated under N-limited condition as compared to C-limited condition. In the present study, therefore, the effects of such single-gene knockout on the metabolic regulation were investigated to clarify the roles of those genes in the aerobic continuous culture at the dilution rate of 0.2 h(-1).
Results: The specific glucose consumption rates and the specific CO2 production rates of cyoA, cydB, fnr, and fur mutants were all increased as compared to the wild type under both C-limited and N-limited conditions. The former phenomenon was consistent with the up-regulations of the transcript levels of ptsG and ptsH, which are consistent with down-regulations of crp and mlc genes. Moreover, the increase in the specific glucose consumption rate was also caused by up-regulations of the transcript levels of pfkA, pykF and possibly zwf, where those are consistent with the down regulations of cra, crp and mlc genes. Moreover, the transcript levels of rpoN together with glnK, glnB, glnE were up-regulated, and thus the transcript levels of glnA,L,G, and gltB,D as well as nac were up-regulated, while gdhA was down-regulated. This implies the interconnection between cAMP-Crp and PII-Ntr systems. Moreover, cyoA, cydB, fnr and fur gene deletions up-regulated the transcript levels of respiration (nuoA, ndh, cyoA, cydB, and atpA) and the oxidative stress related genes such as soxR, S and sodA, where this was further enhanced under N-limitation. In the cases of cyoA and cydB mutants, arcA, fnr, fur, cydB (for cyoA mutant), and cyoA (for cydB mutant) genes were up-regulated, which may be due to incomplete oxidation of quinol. It was also shown that fur gene transcript level was up-regulated in accordance with the activation of respiratory chain genes. It was shown that the deletion of fur gene activated the enterobactin pathway.
Conclusion: The present result demonstrated how the fermentation characteristics could be explained by the transcript levels of metabolic pathway genes as well as global regulators in relation to the knockout of such single genes as cyoA, cydB, fnr, and fur, and clarified the complex gene network regulation in relation to glycolysis, TCA cycle, respiration, and N-regulated pathways. The present result is quite important in understanding the metabolic regulation for metabolic engineering. Moreover, the present result may be useful in improving the specific glucose consumption rate and activation of the TCA cycle by modulating the respiratory chain genes and the related global regulators. The result obtained under N-limited condition may be useful for the heterologous protein production under N-limitation.