Backgroundl-malate is one of the most important platform chemicals widely used in food, metal cleaning, textile finishing, pharmaceuticals, and synthesis of various fine chemicals. Recently, the development of biotechnological routes to produce l-malate from renewable resources has attracted significant attention.ResultsA potential l-malate producing strain E. coli BA040 was obtained by inactivating the genes of fumB, frdABCD, ldhA and pflB. After co-overexpression of mdh and pck, BA063 achieved 18 g/L glucose consumption, leading to an increase in l-malate titer and yield of 13.14 g/L and 0.73 g/g, respectively. Meantime, NADH/NAD+ ratio decreased to 0.72 with the total NAD(H) of 38.85 µmol/g DCW, and ATP concentration reached 715.79 nmol/g DCW. During fermentation in 5L fermentor with BA063, 41.50 g/L glucose was consumed within 67 h with the final l-malate concentration and yield of 28.50 g/L, 0.69 g/g when heterologous CO2 source was supplied.ConclusionsThe availability of NAD(H) was correlated positively with the glucose utilization rate and cellular metabolism capacities, and lower NADH/NAD+ ratio was beneficial for the accumulation of l-malate under anaerobic conditions. Enhanced ATP level could significantly enlarge the intracellular NAD(H) pool under anaerobic condition. Moreover, there might be an inflection point, that is, the increase of NAD(H) pool before the inflection point is followed by the improvement of metabolic performance, while the increase of NAD(H) pool after the inflection point has no significant impacts and NADH/NAD+ ratio would dominate the metabolic flux. This study is a typical case of anaerobic organic acid fermentation, and demonstrated that ATP level, NAD(H) pool and NADH/NAD+ ratio are three important regulatory parameters during the anaerobic production of l-malate.