The nutrition-versatility of Burkholderia sp. strain USM (JCM 15050) has initiated the studies on the use of this bacterium for polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) production. To date, the Burkholderia sp. has been reported to synthesize 3-hydroxybutyrate, 3-hydroxyvalerate and 3-hydroxy-4-methylvalerate monomers. In this study, the PHA biosynthetic genes of this strain were successfully cloned and characterized. The PHA biosynthetic cluster of this strain consisted of a PHA synthase (phaC), β-ketothiolase (phaA), acetoacetyl-CoA reductase (phaB) and PHA synthesis regulator (phaR). The translated products of these genes revealed identities to corresponding proteins of Burkholderia vietnamiensis (99–100%) and Cupriavidus necator H16 (63–89%). Heterologous expression of phaCBs conferred PHA synthesis to the PHA-negative Cupriavidus necator PHB¯4, confirming that phaCBs encoded functionally active protein. PHA synthase activity measurements revealed that the crude extracts of C. necator PHB¯4 transformant showed higher synthase activity (243 U/g) compared to that of wild-types Burkholderia sp. (151 U/g) and C. necator H16 (180 U/g). Interestingly, the transformant C. necator PHB¯4 harbouring Burkholderia sp. PHA synthase gene accumulated poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-4-hydroxybutyrate) with 4-hydroxybutyrate monomer as high as up to 87mol% from sodium 4-hydroxybutyrate. The wild type Burkholderia sp. did not have the ability to produce this copolymer.
Keywords: Biopolymer, Polyhydroxyalkanoate, PHA synthase, PHA operon, Burkholderia sp.