Regulation of arginine biosynthesis, catabolism and transport in Escherichia coli

Research output: Contribution to journalScientific review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Already very early, the study of microbial arginine biosynthesis and its regulation contributed significantly to the development of new ideas and concepts. Hence, the term "repression" was proposed by Vogel (The chemical basis of heredity, The John Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1957) (in opposition to induction) to describe the relative decrease in acetylornithinase production in Escherichia coli cells upon arginine supplementation, whereas the term "regulon" was coined by Maas and Clark (J Mol Biol 8:365-370, 1964) for the ensemble of arginine biosynthetic genes dispersed over the E. coli chromosome but all subjected to regulation by the trans-acting argR gene product. Since then, unraveling of the molecular mechanisms controlling arginine biosynthesis, catabolism, and transport in and out the cell, have revealed moonlighting activities of enzymes and transcriptional regulators that generate unexpected interconnections between at first sight totally unrelated cellular processes, and have continued to replenish scientific knowledge and stimulated creative thinking. Furthermore, arginine is much more than just a common amino acid for protein synthesis. It may also be used as sole source of nitrogen by E. coli and a source of nitrogen, carbon and energy by many other bacteria. It is a substrate for the synthesis of polyamines, and important for the extreme acid resistance of E. coli. Furthermore, the guanidino group of arginine is well suited to engage in multiple interactions involving hydrogen bonds and ionic interactions with proteins and nucleic acids. Here, we combine major historical discoveries with current state of the art knowledge on arginine biosynthesis, catabolism and transport, and especially the regulation of these processes in E. coli, with reference to other microorganisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1127
Number of pages25
JournalAmino Acids
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • arginine
  • lysine
  • leucine
  • transcriptional regulation
  • protein-DNA interactions
  • feedback inhibition


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