Summary: The effect of the addition of trimethylamine -oxide (TMAO) in the growth medium on anaerobic fermentative and respiratory pathways was examined. Formate dehydrogenase H (FDH-H) activity was totally repressed by the addition of 40 mM TMAO, whereas the overall hydrogenase (HYD) activity was reduced by 25%. Accordingly, expression of operon fusions with the and structural genes specifying FDH-H and HYD3 was reduced sevenfold and eightfold, respectively, leading to suppression of an active formate hydrogenlyase system. In contrast, global respiratory formate-dependent phenazine methosulphate reductase (FDH-PMS) activity, which consists of both the major anaerobic FDH-N enzyme and the aerobic FDH-Z isoenzyme, was increased approximately twofold. This was corroborated by a 2.5-fold stimulation of the sole transcriptional fusion which reflects the synthesis of the respiratory aerobic FDH-Z enzyme. In or mutants lacking either FDH-PMS activity or TMAO reductase (TOR) activity, the formate hydrogenlyase pathway was no longer inhibited by TMAO. In addition, introduction of 30 mM formate in the growth medium was found to relieve the repressive effect of TMAO in the wild-type strain. When TMAO was added as terminal electron acceptor a significant enhancement of anaerobic growth was observed with the wild-type strain and the mutant. It was associated with the concomitant suppression of the formate hydrogenlyase enzymes. This was in contrast to the and mutants whose growth pattern and fermentative enzymes remained unaffected. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that formate-dependent reduction of TMAO via FDH-N and TOR reduces the amount of formate available for induction of the formate hydrogenlyase pathway.


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