Workflow Based on the Combination of Isotopic Tracer Experiments to Investigate Microbial Metabolism of Multiple Nutrient Sources

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Studies in the field of microbiology rely on the implementation of a wide range of methodologies. In particular, the development of appropriate methods substantially contributes to providing extensive knowledge of the metabolism of microorganisms growing in chemically defined media containing unique nitrogen and carbon sources. In contrast, the management through metabolism of multiple nutrient sources, despite their broad presence in natural or industrial environments, remains virtually unexplored. This situation is mainly due to the lack of suitable methodologies, which hinders investigations.

We report an experimental strategy to quantitatively and comprehensively explore how metabolism operates when a nutrient is provided as a mixture of different molecules, i.e., a complex resource. Here, we describe its application for assessing the partitioning of multiple nitrogen sources through the yeast metabolic network. The workflow combines information obtained during stable isotope tracer experiments using selected 13C- or 15N-labeled substrates. It first consists of parallel and reproducible fermentations in the same medium, which includes a mixture of N-containing molecules; however,a selected nitrogen source is labeled each time. A combination of analytical procedures (HPLC, GC-MS) is implemented to assess the labeling patterns of targeted compounds and to quantify the consumption and recovery of substrates in other metabolites. An integrated analysis of the complete dataset provides an overview of the fate of consumed substrates within cells. This approach requires an accurate protocol for the collection of samples–facilitated by a robot-assisted system for online monitoring of fermentations–and the achievement of numerous time-consuming analyses. Despite these constraints, it allowed understanding, for the first time, the partitioning of multiple nitrogen sources throughout the yeast metabolic network. We elucidated the redistribution of nitrogen from more abundant sources toward other N-compounds and determined the metabolic origins of volatile molecules and proteinogenic amino acids.