Rhizobium meliloti, like many other bacteria, accumulates high levels of glutamic acid when osmotically stressed. The effect was found to be proportional to the osmolarity of the growth medium. NaCl, KCI, sucrose, and polyethylene glycol elicited this response. The intracellular levels of glutamate and K+ began to increase immediately when cells were shifted to high-osmolarity medium. Antibiotics that inhibit protein synthesis did not affect this increase in glutamate production. Cells growing in conventional media at any stage in the growth cycle could be suspended in medium causing osmotic stress and excess glutamate accumulated. The excess glutamate did not appear to be excreted, and the intracellular level eventually returned to normal when osmotically stressed cells were suspended in low-osmolarity medium. A glt mutant lacking glutamate synthase and auxotrophic for glutamate accumulated excess glutamate in response to osmotic stress. Addition of isoleucine, glutamine, proline, or arginine stimulated glutamate accumulation to wild-type levels when the mutant cells were suspended in minimal medium with NaCl to cause osmotic stress. In both wild-type and mutant cells, inhibitors of transaminase activity, including azaserine and aminooxyacetate, reduced glutamate levels. The results suggest that the excess glutamate made in response to osmotic stress is derived from degradation of amino acids and transamination of 2-ketoglutarate
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