Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) is an important biopolymer accumulated by bacteria and associated with cell survival and stress response. Here, we make two surprising findings in the PHB-accumulating species Rhodospirillum rubrum S1. We first show that the presence of PHB promotes the increased assimilation of acetate preferentially into biomass rather than PHB. When R. rubrum is supplied with (13)C-acetate as a PHB precursor, 83.5 % of the carbon in PHB comes from acetate. However, only 15 % of the acetate ends up in PHB with the remainder assimilated as bacterial biomass. The PHB-negative mutant of R. rubrum assimilates 2-fold less acetate into biomass compared to the wild-type strain. Acetate assimilation proceeds via the ethylmalonyl-CoA pathway with (R)-3-hydroxybutyrate as a common intermediate with the PHB pathway. Secondly, we show that R. rubrum cells accumulating PHB have reduced ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase (RuBisCO) activity. RuBisCO activity reduces 5-fold over a 36-h period after the onset of PHB. In contrast, a PHB-negative mutant maintains the same level of RuBisCO activity over the growth period. Since RuBisCO controls the redox potential in R. rubrum, PHB likely replaces RuBisCO in this role. R. rubrum is the first bacterium found to express RuBisCO under aerobic chemoheterotrophic conditions.
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