Homeostasis of metabolites in Escherichia coli on transition from anaerobic to aerobic conditions and the transient secretion of pyruvate
Pyruvate formate-lyase (PFL) (formate acetyltransferase; EC 126.96.36.199) of oral streptococci is essential for metabolizing sugar into volatile compounds (formate, acetate, and ethanol). This enzyme is extremely sensitive to oxygen, and its activity is irreversibly inactivated by oxygen. When Streptococcus sanguis was anaerobically starved, a part of the active form of PFL was converted into a reversible inactive form that was tolerant of oxygen. This reversible inactive enzyme could be reactivated to the active enzyme by anaerobic sugar metabolism, with the recovery of volatile compound production. The PFL in Streptococcus mutans was not converted into an oxygen-tolerant inactive form by anaerobic starvation, and after exposure of the cells to oxygen the PFL could not be reactivated. These findings suggest that S. mutans can produce acids rapidly under anaerobic conditions because of its capacity to keep PFL active and that S. sanguis can protect its sugar metabolism from oxygen impairment because of its interconversion of PFL.