PLoS biology. 2023-10-20; 21.10: e3002180.

Microbial thermogenesis is dependent on ATP concentrations and the protein kinases ArcB, GlnL, and YccC

Dhatt PS, Chiu S, Moon TS

PMID: 37862351


Organisms necessarily release heat energy in their pursuit of survival. This process is known as cellular thermogenesis and is implicated in many processes from cancer metabolism to spontaneous farm fires. However, the molecular basis for this fundamental phenomenon is yet to be elucidated. Here, we show that the major players involved in the cellular thermogenesis of Escherichia coli are the protein kinases ArcB, GlnL, and YccC. We also reveal the substrate-level control of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-driven autophosphorylation that governs cellular thermogenesis. Specifically, through live cell microcalorimetry, we find these regulatory proteins, when knocked out in a model E. coli strain, dysregulate cellular thermogenesis. This dysregulation can be seen in an average 25% or greater increase in heat output by these cells. We also discover that both heat output and intracellular ATP levels are maximal during the late log phase of growth. Additionally, we show that microbial thermogenesis can be engineered through overexpressing glnL. Our results demonstrate a correlation between ATP concentrations in the cell and a cell's ability to generate excess heat. We expect this work to be the foundation for engineering thermogenically tuned organisms for a variety of applications.

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