Campylobacter jejuni is the most frequent cause of human food-borne bacterial gastroenteritis but its physiology and biochemistry are poorly understood. Only a few amino-acids can be catabolised and these are known to be important for host colonization. Here we have established methods for rapid high throughput analyses of global metabolism in C. jejuni using direct injection mass spectrometry (DIMS) to compare metabolite fingerprints of wild-type and mutant strains. Principal component analyses show that the metabolic fingerprint of mutants that have a genomic deletion in genes for key amino-acid catabolic enzymes (either sdaA, serine dehydratase; aspA, aspartase or aspB, aspartate:glutamate transaminase) can easily be distinguished from the isogenic parental strain. Assignment of putative metabolites showed predictable changes directly associated with the particular metabolic lesion in these mutants as well as more extensive changes in the aspA mutant compared to the sdaA or aspB strains. Further analyses of a cj0150c mutant strain, which has no obvious phenotype, suggested a role for Cj0150 in the conversion of cystathionine to homocysteine. Our results show that DIMS is a useful technique for probing the metabolism of this important pathogen and may help in assigning function to genes encoding novel enzymes with currently unknown metabolic roles.
- Campylobacter jejuni