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Begs the question: what are we looking for?


Requirement, followed by mechanistic reason for “activity”

Excellent aqueous solubility: Provides for rapid movement/transport to the cell via diffusion and mass flow.

Structural simplicity: Direct utilization in major catabolic pathways (such as the citric acid cycle)

Small molecular size (<600 Da): Small compounds do not require time- and resource-intensive extracellular depolymerization.

Compound mix: ’empowers’ oligotrophic organisms that would be idle in a single substrate situation.

Carbon oxidation state near zero: Such substrates are best in satifying both biosynthetic and energetic needs at the same time.

No less than 4 C-atoms: Organic acids containing only 2& 3 C-atoms cannot be used as growth substrates by the citric acid cycle alone, while 4-6 C acids can.

Anomeric C in sugars: Reducing sugars are more likely to become oxidized than nonreducing sugars.

(Content extracted from image of slide by Soil scientist Markus Kleber. Reprinted with permission in blog post)