Brucella central carbon metabolism: an update

T. Barbier, A. Zúñiga-Ripa, S. Moussa, H. Plovier, J. F. Sternon, L. Lázaro-Antón, R. Conde-Álvarez, X. De Bolle, M. Iriarte, I. Moriyón, J. J. Letesson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The brucellae are facultative intracellular pathogens causing brucellosis, an important zoonosis. Here, we review the nutritional, genetic, proteomic and transcriptomic studies on Brucella carbon uptake and central metabolism, information that is needed for a better understanding of Brucella virulence. There is no uniform picture across species but the studies suggest primary and/or secondary transporters for unknown carbohydrates, lactate, glycerol phosphate, erythritol, xylose, ribose, glucose and glucose/galactose, and routes for their incorporation to central metabolism, including an erythritol pathway feeding the pentose phosphate cycle. Significantly, all brucellae lack phosphoenolpyruvate synthase and phosphofructokinase genes, which confirms previous evidence on glycolysis absence, but carry all Entner–Doudoroff (ED) pathway and Krebs cycle (and glyoxylate pathway) genes. However, glucose catabolism proceeds through the pentose phosphate cycle in the classical species, and the ED pathway operates in some rodent-associated brucellae, suggesting an ancestral character for this pathway in this group. Gluconeogenesis is functional but does not rely exclusively on classical fructose bisphosphatases. Evidence obtained using infection models is fragmentary but suggests the combined or sequential use of hexoses/pentoses, amino acids and gluconeogenic substrates. We also discuss the role of the phosphotransferase system, stringent reponse, quorum sensing, BvrR/S and sRNAs in metabolism control, an essential aspect of the life style of facultative intracellular parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-211
Number of pages30
JournalCritical Reviews in Microbiology
Issue number2
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2018


  • Bacterial metabolism
  • Entner–Doudoroff
  • gluconeogenesis
  • glycolysis
  • host–pathogen relation


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