Identification of the first glyphosate transporter by genomic adaptation

Environ Microbiol. 2019 Apr;21(4):1287-1305. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.14534. Epub 2019 Feb 17.


The soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis can get into contact with growth-inhibiting substances, which may be of anthropogenic origin. Glyphosate is such a substance serving as a nonselective herbicide. Glyphosate specifically inhibits the 5-enolpyruvyl-shikimate-3-phosphate (EPSP) synthase, which generates an essential precursor for de novo synthesis of aromatic amino acids in plants, fungi, bacteria and archaea. Inhibition of the EPSP synthase by glyphosate results in depletion of the cellular levels of aromatic amino acids unless the environment provides them. Here, we have assessed the potential of B. subtilis to adapt to glyphosate at the genome level. In contrast to Escherichia coli, which evolves glyphosate resistance by elevating the production and decreasing the glyphosate sensitivity of the EPSP synthase, B. subtilis primarily inactivates the gltT gene encoding the high-affinity glutamate/aspartate symporter GltT. Further adaptation of the gltT mutants to glyphosate led to the inactivation of the gltP gene encoding the glutamate transporter GltP. Metabolome analyses confirmed that GltT is the major entryway of glyphosate into B. subtilis. GltP, the GltT homologue of E. coli also transports glyphosate into B. subtilis. Finally, we found that GltT is involved in uptake of the herbicide glufosinate, which inhibits the glutamine synthetase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3-Phosphoshikimate 1-Carboxyvinyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Amino Acid Transport Systems, Acidic / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis / metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Glycine / toxicity
  • Glyphosate
  • Herbicides / metabolism
  • Herbicides / toxicity
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism


  • Amino Acid Transport Systems, Acidic
  • Herbicides
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • 3-Phosphoshikimate 1-Carboxyvinyltransferase
  • Glycine