Chlorobium limicola was grown on a mineral salts medium with CO2 as the main carbon source supplemented with specifically labeled 14C propionate and the incorporation of 14C into alanine (≙ intracellular pyruvate), aspartate (≙ oxaloacetate), and glutamate (≙ α-ketoglutarate) was studied in long term labeling experiments. During growth in presence of propionate 30% of the cell carbon were derived from propionate and 70% from CO2. Propionate was not oxidized to CO2.
All three amino acids were found to be labeled. The labeling patterns indicate that propionate was assimilated via propionyl CoA, methylmalonyl CoA and succinyl CoA. When 1-14C propionate was the labeled precursor no radioactivity was found in the carboxyl group(s) of alanine, aspartate and glutamate, excluding the incorporation of propionate into the amino acids via succinate oxidation to fumarate. With 1-14C propionate preferentially aspartate (C-3) and glutamate (C-2) became labeled, with 2-14C propionate alanine (C-3) and glutamate (C-4). These findings indicate that propionate was incorporated into the amino acids via succinyl CoA, α-ketoglutarate, isocitrate, and citrate, followed by a si-type cleavage of citrate to oxaloacetate and acetyl CoA (or acetate). Similar experiments with U-14C acetate confirm these conclusions. Thus, all reactions of the proposed reductive tricarboxylic acid cycle could be demonstrated in autotrophically growing cells.