Biosynthesis of Glutamate, Aspartate, Asparagine, L-Alanine, and D-Alanine

EcoSal Plus. 2004 Dec;1(1). doi: 10.1128/ecosalplus.


Glutamate, aspartate, asparagine, L-alanine, and D-alanine are derived from intermediates of central metabolism, mostly the citric acid cycle, in one or two steps. While the pathways are short, the importance and complexity of the functions of these amino acids befit their proximity to central metabolism. Inorganic nitrogen (ammonia) is assimilated into glutamate, which is the major intracellular nitrogen donor. Glutamate is a precursor for arginine, glutamine, proline, and the polyamines. Glutamate degradation is also important for survival in acidic environments, and changes in glutamate concentration accompany changes in osmolarity. Aspartate is a precursor for asparagine, isoleucine, methionine, lysine, threonine, pyrimidines, NAD, and pantothenate; a nitrogen donor for arginine and purine synthesis; and an important metabolic effector controlling the interconversion of C3 and C4 intermediates and the activity of the DcuS-DcuR two-component system. Finally, L- and D-alanine are components of the peptide of peptidoglycan, and L-alanine is an effector of the leucine responsive regulatory protein and an inhibitor of glutamine synthetase (GS). This review summarizes the genes and enzymes of glutamate, aspartate, asparagine, L-alanine, and D-alanine synthesis and the regulators and environmental factors that control the expression of these genes. Glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) deficient strains of E. coli, K. aerogenes, and S. enterica serovar Typhimurium grow normally in glucose containing (energy-rich) minimal medium but are at a competitive disadvantage in energy limited medium. Glutamate, aspartate, asparagine, L-alanine, and D-alanine have multiple transport systems.