A. aceti has been used for millennia to make vinegar, at least since an indirect reference in the Old Testament Book of Numbers to "vinegar made from wine." But not until recently did anybody study the unusual biochemical features of the organism that allow it to survive and even thrive in very acidic conditions.
Joe Kappock, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis couldn't overlook this very promising bacterium.
"The thing that piqued our interest was that this organism has this weird growth habit of making vinegar from ethanol (alcohol), which means it's highly resistant to ethanol, which very few things grow in, and resistant to acetic acid (vinegar), which even fewer things grow in," Kappock said.
"Important enzymes in this bug resist acid in a way almost all organisms cannot, and we're trying to answer the question: 'How is this enzyme different?'"
That answer, Kappock said, could reveal many new important insights. Kappock discussed his research at the American Chemical Society's Annual Meeting, held Aug. 23-25, 2004, in Philadelphia. Specifically, Kappock and his research group study the enzyme citrate synthase, one of the oldest enzymes in a cell. Citrate synthase is important because it initiates the citric acid cycle, or Kreb's cycle, a biochemical pathway vitally important for energy production in the cells of organisms simple as bacteria and complex as humans.