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Assessment of metabolic flux distribution in the thermophilic hydrogen producer Caloramator celer as affected by external pH and hydrogen partial pressure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalMicrobial Cell Factories
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2014
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Background: Caloramator celer is a strict anaerobic, alkalitolerant, thermophilic bacterium capable of converting glucose to hydrogen (H2), carbon dioxide, acetate, ethanol and formate by a mixed acid fermentation. Depending on the growth conditions C. celer can produce H2 at high yields. For a biotechnological exploitation of this bacterium for H2 production it is crucial to understand the factors that regulate carbon and electron fluxes and therefore the final distribution of metabolites to channel the metabolic flux towards the desired product.Results: Combining experimental results from batch fermentations with genome analysis, reconstruction of central carbon metabolism and metabolic flux analysis (MFA), this study shed light on glucose catabolism of the thermophilic alkalitolerant bacterium C. celer. Two innate factors pertaining to culture conditions have been identified to significantly affect the metabolic flux distribution: culture pH and partial pressures of H2 (PH2). Overall, at alkaline to neutral pH the rate of biomass synthesis was maximized, whereas at acidic pH the lower growth rate and the less efficient biomass formation are accompanied with more efficient energy recovery from the substrate indicating high cell maintenance possibly to sustain intracellular pH homeostasis. Higher H2 yields were associated with fermentation at acidic pH as a consequence of the lower synthesis of other reduced by-products such as formate and ethanol. In contrast, PH2 did not affect the growth of C. celer on glucose. At high PH2 the cellular redox state was balanced by rerouting the flow of carbon and electrons to ethanol and formate production allowing unaltered glycolytic flux and growth rate, but resulting in a decreased H2 synthesis.Conclusion: C. celer possesses a flexible fermentative metabolism that allows redistribution of fluxes at key metabolic nodes to simultaneously control redox state and efficiently harvest energy from substrate even under unfavorable conditions (i.e. low pH and high PH2). With the H2 production in mind, acidic pH and low PH2 should be preferred for a high yield-oriented process, while a high productivity-oriented process can be achieved at alkaline pH and high PH2. © 2014 Ciranna et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


  • Biohydrogen production, Caloramator, Ethanol, Fermentation, Formate, Hydrogen tolerance, Metabolic flux analysis, Metabolic shift, Pyruvate node, Redox state

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