pH-Dependent Expression of Periplasmic Proteins and Amino Acid Catabolism in Escherichia coli

Document Type


Publication Date



Escherichia coli grows over a wide range of pHs (pH 4.4 to 9.2), and its own metabolism shifts the external pH toward either extreme, depending on available nutrients and electron acceptors. Responses to pH values across the growth range were examined through two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-D gels) of the proteome and through lac gene fusions. Strain W3110 was grown to early log phase in complex broth buffered at pH 4.9, 6.0, 8.0, or 9.1. 2-D gel analysis revealed the pH dependence of 19 proteins not previously known to be pH dependent. At low pH, several acetate-induced proteins were elevated (LuxS, Tpx, and YfiD), whereas acetate-repressed proteins were lowered (Pta, TnaA, DksA, AroK, and MalE). These responses could be mediated by the reuptake of acetate driven by changes in pH. The amplified proton gradient could also be responsible for the acid induction of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) enzymes SucB and SucC. In addition to the autoinducer LuxS, low pH induced another potential autoinducer component, the LuxH homolog RibB. pH modulated the expression of several periplasmic and outer membrane proteins: acid induced YcdO and YdiY; base induced OmpA, MalE, and YceI; and either acid or base induced OmpX relative to pH 7. Two pH-dependent periplasmic proteins were redox modulators: Tpx (acid-induced) and DsbA (base-induced). The locus alx, induced in extreme base, was identified as ygjT, whose product is a putative membrane-bound redox modulator. The cytoplasmic superoxide stress protein SodB was induced by acid, possibly in response to increased iron solubility. High pH induced amino acid metabolic enzymes (TnaA and CysK) as well as lac fusions to the genes encoding AstD and GabT. These enzymes participate in arginine and glutamate catabolic pathways that channel carbon into acids instead of producing alkaline amines. Overall, these data are consistent with a model in which E. coli modulates multiple transporters and pathways of amino acid consumption so as to minimize the shift of its external pH toward either acidic or alkaline extreme.


Journal of Bacteriology





First Page


Last Page