C4-dicarboxylates, such as fumarate, l-malate and l-aspartate represent substrates for anaerobic growth of Escherichia coli by fumarate respiration. Here, we determined whether C4-dicarboxylate metabolism, as well as fumarate respiration, contribute to colonization of the mammalian intestinal tract. Metabolite profiling revealed that the murine small intestine contained high and low levels of l-aspartate and l-malate respectively, whereas fumarate was nearly absent. Under laboratory conditions, addition of C4-dicarboxylate at concentrations corresponding to the levels of the C4-dicarboxylates in the small intestine (2.6 mmol kg−1 dry weight) induced the dcuBp-lacZ reporter gene (67% of maximal) in a DcuS-DcuR-dependent manner. In addition to its role as a precursor for fumarate respiration, l-aspartate was able to supply all the nitrogen required for anaerobically growing E. coli. DcuS-DcuR-dependent genes were transcribed in the murine intestine, and mutants with defective anaerobic C4-dicarboxylate metabolism (dcuSR, frdA, dcuB, dcuA and aspA genes) were impaired for colonizing the murine gut. We conclude that l-aspartate plays an important role in providing fumarate for fumarate respiration and supplying nitrogen for E. coli in the mouse intestine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics