Escherichia coli mutants lacking alcohol dehydrogenase (adh mutants) cannot synthesize the fermentation product ethanol and are unable to grow anaerobically on glucose and other hexoses. Similarly, phosphotransacetylase-negative mutants (pta mutants) neither excrete acetate nor grow anaerobically. However, when a strain carrying an adh deletion was selected for anaerobic growth on glucose, spontaneous pta mutants were isolated. Strains carrying both adh and pta mutations were observed by in vivo nuclear magnetic resonance and shown to produce lactic acid as the major fermentation product. Various combinations of adh pta double mutants regained the ability to grow anaerobically on hexoses, by what amounts to a homolactic fermentation. Unlike wild-type strains, such adh pta double mutants were unable to grow anaerobically on sorbitol or on glucuronic acid. The growth properties of strains carrying various mutations affecting the enzymes of fermentation are discussed in terms of redox balance
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