Bacterial microcompartments coupled with extracellular electron transfer drive the anaerobic utilization of ethanolamine in listeria monocytogenes

Zeng, Zhe; Boeren, Sjef; Bhandula, Varaang; Light, Samuel H.; Smid, Eddy J.; Notebaart, Richard A.; Abee, Tjakko


Ethanolamine (EA) is a valuable microbial carbon and nitrogen source derived from cell membranes. EA catabolism is suggested to occur in a cellular metabolic subsystem called a bacterial microcompartment (BMC), and the activation of EA utilization (eut) genes is linked to bacterial pathogenesis. Despite reports showing that the activation of eut is regulated by a vitamin B12-binding riboswitch and that upregulation of eut genes occurs in mice, it remains unknown whether EA catabolism is BMC dependent in Listeria monocytogenes. Here, we provide evidence for BMC-dependent anaerobic EA utilization via metabolic analysis, proteomics, and electron microscopy. First, we show vitamin B12-induced activation of the eut operon in L. monocytogenes coupled to the utilization of EA, thereby enabling growth. Next, we demonstrate BMC formation connected with EA catabolism with the production of acetate and ethanol in a molar ratio of 2:1. Flux via the ATP-generating acetate branch causes an apparent redox imbalance due to the reduced regeneration of NAD1 in the ethanol branch resulting in a surplus of NADH. We hypothesize that the redox imbalance is compensated by linking eut BMCs to anaerobic flavin-based extracellular electron transfer (EET). Using L. monocytogenes wild-type, BMC mutant, and EET mutant strains, we demonstrate an interaction between BMCs and EET and provide evidence for a role of Fe31 as an electron acceptor. Taken together, our results suggest an important role of BMC-dependent EA catabolism in L. monocytogenes growth in anaerobic environments like the human gastrointestinal tract, with a crucial role for the flavin-based EET system in redox balancing.