Department of Biochemistry, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA; Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA; National Bioenergy Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO 80401, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Cyanobacterial carboxysomes encapsulate carbonic anhydrase and ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO). Genetic deletion of the major structural proteins encoded within the ccm operon in Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 (ΔccmKLMN) disrupts carboxysome formation and significantly affects cellular physiology. Here we employed both metabolite pool size analysis and isotopically nonstationary metabolic flux analysis (INST-MFA) to examine metabolic regulation in cells lacking carboxysomes. Under high CO2 environments (1%), the ΔccmKLMN mutant could recover growth and had a similar central flux distribution as the control strain, with the exceptions of moderately decreased photosynthesis and elevated biomass protein content and photorespiration activity. Metabolite analyses indicated that the ΔccmKLMN strain had significantly larger pool sizes of pyruvate (>18 folds), UDPG (uridine diphosphate glucose), and aspartate as well as higher levels of secreted organic acids (e.g., malate and succinate). These results suggest that the ΔccmKLMN mutant is able to largely maintain a fluxome similar to the control strain by changing in intracellular metabolite concentrations and metabolite overflows under optimal growth conditions. When CO2 was insufficient (0.2%), provision of acetate moderately promoted mutant growth. Interestingly, the removal of microcompartments may loosen the flux network and promote RuBisCO side-reactions, facilitating redirection of central metabolites to competing pathways (i.e., pyruvate to heterologous lactate production). This study provides important insights into metabolic regulation via enzyme compartmentation and cyanobacterial compensatory responses.