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Metabolite sequestration enables rapid recovery from fatty acid depletion in Escherichia coli

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03112-19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2020


Microbes adapt their metabolism to take advantage of nutrients in their environment. Such adaptations control specific metabolic pathways to match energetic demands with nutrient availability. Upon depletion of nutrients, rapid pathway recovery is key to release cellular resources required for survival under the new nutritional conditions. Yet, little is known about the regulatory strategies that microbes employ to accelerate pathway recovery in response to nutrient depletion. Using the fatty acid catabolic pathway in Escherichia coli, here, we show that fast recovery can be achieved by rapid release of a transcriptional regulator from a metabolite-sequestered complex. With a combination of mathematical modeling and experiments, we show that recovery dynamics depend critically on the rate of metabolite consumption and the exposure time to nutrients. We constructed strains with rewired transcriptional regulatory architectures that highlight the metabolic benefits of negative autoregulation over constitutive and positive autoregulation. Our results have wide-ranging implications for our understanding of metabolic adaptations, as well as for guiding the design of gene circuitry for synthetic biology and metabolic engineering.IMPORTANCE Rapid metabolic recovery during nutrient shift is critical to microbial survival, cell fitness, and competition among microbiota, yet little is known about the regulatory mechanisms of rapid metabolic recovery. This work demonstrates a previously unknown mechanism where rapid release of a transcriptional regulator from a metabolite-sequestered complex enables fast recovery to nutrient depletion. The work identified key regulatory architectures and parameters that control the speed of recovery, with wide-ranging implications for the understanding of metabolic adaptations as well as synthetic biology and metabolic engineering.

    Research areas

  • metabolic dynamics, metabolic regulation, synthetic biology, transcription factor

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