The protonophore resistance of Bacillus megaterium is correlated with elevated ratios of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids in membrane phospholipids

Sanda Clejan, Arthur A. Guffanti, Leon H. Falk, Terry A. Krulwich

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Growth of the protonophore-resistant strain of Bacillus megaterium, strain C8, in the presence of oleic acid markedly reduced its resistance to low concentrations of carbonylcyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP). Growth of the CCCP-sensitive wild-type strain in the presence of stearic acid increased the resistance of that strain to growth inhibition by protonophore. Studies of the membrane lipids indicated that in the absence of additions to the medium, membranes from C8 contained greatly reduced levels of monounsaturated fatty acids relative to the wild type; wild-type levels were restored by growth of C8 in the presence of oleic acid, concomitant with the loss of resistance. Conversely, growth of the wild type on stearic acid increased the ratio of saturated/unsaturated fatty acids in the membrane, concomitant with a modest increase in the resistance of the wild-type strain to CCCP. The exogenous oleic acid was preferentially incorporated into phosphatidylethanolamine, diphosphatidylglycerol, and 1,2-diacylglycerol, whereas stearic acid was incorporated preferentially into phosphatidylglycerol, and into the small component of free fatty acids. Depending upon the growth conditions, changes in membrane lipid-to-membrane protein ratio and in the ratios of polar lipid components were observed, but none of those changes correlated as did the changes in saturated fatty-acid-to-unsaturated fatty-acid ratio with protonophore resistance. This latter correlation was further suggested by experiments in which the protonophore resistance of wild type B. megaterium was shown to increase with increasing growth temperature without any temperature-dependent loss of protonophore efficacy. The experiments here support the hypothesis developed from work with Bacillus subtilis that changes in the fatty acid composition of the membrane phospholipids affect energy coupling, and make it clear that simple increases or decreases in the hydrolytic activity of ATPase in the uncoupler-resistant mutants of bacilli are not correlated with resistance in some direct way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-51
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • (B. megaterium)
  • Electrochemical proton gradient
  • Membrane lipid
  • Protonophore resistance


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