Generation of the membrane potential and its impact on the motility, ATP production and growth in Campylobacter jejuni

Anne-Xander van der Stel, Fred C Boogerd, Steven Huynh, Craig T Parker, Linda van Dijk, Jos P M van Putten, Marc M S M Wösten

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The generation of a membrane potential (Δψ), the major constituent of the proton motive force (pmf), is crucial for ATP synthesis, transport of nutrients and flagellar rotation. Campylobacter jejuni harbors a branched electron transport chain, enabling respiration with different electron donors and acceptors. Here, we demonstrate that a relatively high Δψ is only generated in the presence of either formate as electron donor or oxygen as electron acceptor, in combination with an acceptor/donor respectively. We show the necessity of the pmf for motility and growth of C. jejuni. ATP generation is not only accomplished by oxidative phosphorylation via the pmf, but also by substrate-level phosphorylation via the enzyme AckA. In response to a low oxygen tension, C. jejuni increases the transcription and activity of the donor complexes formate dehydrogenase (FdhABC) and hydrogenase (HydABCD) as well as the transcription of the alternative respiratory acceptor complexes. Our findings suggest that in the gut of warm-blooded animals, C. jejuni depends on at least formate or hydrogen as donor (in the anaerobic lumen) or oxygen as acceptor (near the epithelial cells) to generate a pmf that sustains efficient motility and growth for colonization and pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-651
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


The authors thank Marijke Wagner for technical assistance with the TPP+-electrode. The authors have no conflict of interest to declare. This work was supported by the fellowship of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, NWO-ECHO grant 711.012.007 to MW.

FundersFunder number
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek


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