Corynebacterium glutamicum can be triggered to excrete glutamate by the addition of local anesthetics, particularly tetracaine. Glutamate efflux is a carrier-mediated process and not due to unspecific membrane permeabilization. The concentration of local anesthetics triggering optimum excretion depended on the type of anesthetic and varied, ranging from 0.1 (chlorpromazine), 1.3 (tetracaine), and 2.6 mM (butacaine) to 15 mM (benzocaine), in close resemblance to the order of efficiency in anesthetic effect. The onset of glutamate excretion was not correlated to a change in the viscosity or fluidity of the membrane, as measured by electron spin resonance spectroscopy, nor was it related to an action of the anesthetic as an uncoupler. Tetracaine-triggered glutamate excretion was sensitive to changes in the transmembrane osmotic gradient, although an osmotic gradient alone could not trigger glutamate excretion. Tetracaine-triggered glutamate efflux was inhibited by an external rise in osmolality and stimulated by a corresponding decrease. The effects of osmotic gradients and the addition of local anesthetics on glutamate excretion were mutually exchangeable, indicating similar modes of action. We suggest that this common principle is a change in the membrane strain. C. glutamicum cells which excrete glutamate without manipulation of the membrane, e.g., biotin-limited cells or glutamate production mutants, were not stimulated by the addition of tetracaine
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