European Food Research and Technology

, Volume 245, Issue 4, pp 825–835 | Cite as

Acinetobacter as a potentially important producer of urocanic acid in chub mackerel, a histidine metabolite of emerging health concern

  • Jian-Jun Zhong
  • Ningbo Liao
  • Charlie Li
  • Wenjun Wang
  • Danli Wang
  • Yunfeng Pu
  • Xingqian Ye
  • Donghong LiuEmail author
Original Paper


Urocanic acid, deaminated histidine and the first intermediate in the histidine utilization (Hut) pathway in bacteria, has recently been suggested to have adverse health effects by inducing scombrotoxicosis and immunosuppression after transcis isomerization. This work aimed to shed some light on the microbiology of its formation in scombroid fish, given that such information is very scarce. The isolation of urocanic acid producers from chub mackerel was basically based on enrichment of bacteria possessing the Hut pathway with histidine as the sole source of carbon, energy, and nitrogen. Morphological and molecular identification revealed that the isolates (n = 12), taken from the skin, gills, and intestine, were comprised entirely of Acinetobacter from at least five species. This implies that the Hut pathway in the microbes can be particularly active and as such conferred a growth advantage. Dynamic monitoring of bacterial growth and urocanic acid production in fish juice broth indicated that urocanic acid is a primary metabolite and its production is a closely growth-associated process. This in turn implies that its production can be controlled directly by suppressing the bacterial growth. Several potential methods are proposed through a study of the growth characteristics and preservative susceptibility of representative isolates. In conclusion, this work suggests that Acinetobacter can constitute a potentially important group of urocanic acid producers in chub mackerel.


Urocanic acid Acinetobacter Histidine utilization pathway Chub mackerel 



This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant number 2016YFD0400301) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant number 31701715). The authors are indebted to Patrick Leung for English proofreading.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Compliance with ethics requirements

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jian-Jun Zhong
    • 1
  • Ningbo Liao
    • 2
  • Charlie Li
    • 3
  • Wenjun Wang
    • 1
  • Danli Wang
    • 1
  • Yunfeng Pu
    • 4
  • Xingqian Ye
    • 1
  • Donghong Liu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Fuli Institute of Food Science, Zhejiang Key Laboratory for Agro-Food Processing, Zhejiang R&D Center for Food Technology and Equipment, Department of Food Science and NutritionZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Nutrition and Food SafetyZhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and PreventionHangzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Environmental ToxicologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  4. 4.College of Life SciencesTarim UniversityAlarChina

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