The production of MG (methylglyoxal) in bacterial cells must be maintained in balance with the capacity for detoxification and protection against this electrophile. Excessive production of MG leads to cell death. Survival of exposure to MG is best understood in the Gram-negative bacteria. The major mechanism of protection is the spontaneous reaction of MG with GSH to form hemithiolacetal, followed by detoxification by the glyoxalase system leading to the production of d-lactate. The KefB and KefC glutathione-gated K+ efflux systems are integrated with the activity of the glyoxalase system to regulate the cytoplasmic pH in response to exposure to electrophiles. Bacteria only produce MG when an imbalance occurs in metabolism. Operation of the MG bypass enables cells to adapt, such that balance is restored to metabolism. Excessive production of MG is an adaptive ploy, which, if it fails, has fatal consequences. On this basis one might define MG-induced loss of life as ‘death by misadventure’ rather than suicide!
679th Meeting of the Biochemical Society held at the University of Essex, Colchester, 2–4 July 2003
Abbreviations used: GlxI, glyoxalase I; GlxII, glyoxalase II; MG, methylglyoxal; MGS, methylglyoxal synthase; SLG, S-lactoylglutathione.
- © 2003 Biochemical Society