The fermentation pathways of Escherichia coli

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 1989 Sep;5(3):223-34. doi: 10.1016/0168-6445(89)90033-8.


Under anaerobic conditions and in the absence of alternative electron acceptors Escherichia coli converts sugars to a mixture of products by fermentation. The major soluble products are acetate, ethanol, acetate and formate with smaller amounts of succinate. In addition the gaseous products hydrogen and carbon dioxide are produced in substantial amounts. The pathway generating fermentation products is branched and the flow down each branch is varied in response both to the pH of the culture medium and the nature of the fermentation substrate. In particular, the ratio of the various fermentation products is manipulated in order to balance the number of reducing equivalents generated during glycolytic breakdown of the substrate. The enzymes and corresponding genes involved in these fermentation pathways are described. The regulatory responses of these genes and enzymes are known but the details of the underlying regulatory mechanisms are still obscure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / metabolism
  • Acetic Acid
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Fermentation*
  • Formates / metabolism
  • Lactates / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Acetates
  • Formates
  • Lactates
  • formic acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Ethanol
  • Acetic Acid