Corynebacterium glutamicum is a biotin auxotroph that secretes L-glutamic acid in response to biotin limitation; this process is employed in industrial L-glutamic acid production. Fatty acid ester surfactants and penicillin also induce L-glutamic acid secretion, even in the presence of biotin. However, the mechanism of L-glutamic acid secretion remains unclear. It was recently reported that disruption of odhA, encoding a subunit of the 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase complex, resulted in L-glutamic acid secretion without induction. In this study, we analyzed odhA disruptants and found that those which exhibited constitutive L-glutamic acid secretion carried additional mutations in the NCgl1221 gene, which encodes a mechanosensitive channel homolog. These NCgl1221 gene mutations lead to constitutive L-glutamic acid secretion even in the absence of odhA disruption and also render cells resistant to an L-glutamic acid analog, 4-fluoroglutamic acid. Disruption of the NCgl1221 gene essentially abolishes L-glutamic acid secretion, causing an increase in the intracellular L-glutamic acid pool under biotin-limiting conditions, while amplification of the wild-type NCgl1221 gene increased L-glutamate secretion, although only in response to induction. These results suggest that the NCgl1221 gene encodes an L-glutamic acid exporter. We propose that treatments that induce L-glutamic acid secretion alter membrane tension and trigger a structural transformation of the NCgl1221 protein, enabling it to export L-glutamic acid.
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