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1.  The Genes rubA and rubB for Alkane Degradation in Acinetobacter sp. Strain ADP1 Are in an Operon with estB, Encoding an Esterase, and oxyR 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(14):4292-4298.
Alkanes are oxidized in Acinetobacter sp. strain ADP1 by a three-component alkane monooxygenase, composed of alkane hydroxylase, rubredoxin, and rubredoxin reductase. rubA and rubB encode rubredoxin and a NAD(P)H-dependent rubredoxin reductase. We demonstrate here that single base pair substitutions in rubA or rubB lead to defects in alkane degradation, showing that both genes are essential for alkane utilization. Differences in the degradation capacity for hexadecane and dodecane in these mutants are discussed. Two genes, estB and oxyR, are located downstream of rubB, but are not necessary for alkane degradation. estB encodes a functional esterase. oxyR encodes a LysR-type transcriptional regulator, conferring resistance to hydrogen peroxide. rubA, rubB, estB, and oxyR constitute an operon, which is constitutively transcribed from a ς70 promoter, and an estB-oxyR containing message is also transcribed from an internal promoter.
PMCID: PMC93931  PMID: 10400587
2.  Gene Cloning and Characterization of Multiple Alkane Hydroxylase Systems in Rhodococcus Strains Q15 and NRRL B-16531 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2002;68(12):5933-5942.
The alkane hydroxylase systems of two Rhodococcus strains (NRRL B-16531 and Q15, isolated from different geographical locations) were characterized. Both organisms contained at least four alkane monooxygenase gene homologs (alkB1, alkB2, alkB3, and alkB4). In both strains, the alkB1 and alkB2 homologs were part of alk gene clusters, each encoding two rubredoxins (rubA1 and rubA2; rubA3 and rubA4), a putative TetR transcriptional regulatory protein (alkU1; alkU2), and, in the alkB1 cluster, a rubredoxin reductase (rubB). The alkB3 and alkB4 homologs were found as separate genes which were not part of alk gene clusters. Functional heterologous expression of some of the rhodococcal alk genes (alkB2, rubA2, and rubA4 [NRRL B-16531]; alkB2 and rubB [Q15]) was achieved in Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas expression systems. Pseudomonas recombinants containing rhodococcal alkB2 were able to mineralize and grow on C12 to C16 n-alkanes. All rhodococcal alkane monooxygenases possessed the highly conserved eight-histidine motif, including two apparent alkane monooxygenase signature motifs (LQRH[S/A]DHH and NYXEHYG[L/M]), and the six hydrophobic membrane-spanning regions found in all alkane monooxygenases related to the Pseudomonas putida GPo1 alkane monooxygenase. The presence of multiple alkane hydroxylases in the two rhodococcal strains is reminiscent of other multiple-degradative-enzyme systems reported in Rhodococcus.
PMCID: PMC134402  PMID: 12450813
3.  Alkane Hydroxylase from Acinetobacter sp. Strain ADP1 Is Encoded by alkM and Belongs to a New Family of Bacterial Integral-Membrane Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases 
Degradation of long-chain alkanes by Acinetobacter sp. strain ADP1 involves rubredoxin and rubredoxin reductase. We complemented a mutant deficient in alkane utilization and sequenced four open reading frames (ORFs) on the complementing DNA. Each of these ORFs was disrupted by insertional mutagenesis on the chromosome. As determined from sequence comparisons, ORF1 and ORF4 seem to encode a rotamase of the PpiC type and an acyl coenzyme A dehydrogenase, respectively. Disruption of these ORFs does not affect alkane utilization. In contrast, the two other ORFs, alkR and alkM, are essential for growth on alkanes as sole carbon sources. alkR encodes a polypeptide with extensive homology to AraC-XylS-like transcriptional regulators. It is located next to alkM, which encodes the terminal alkane hydroxylase, but is in the opposite orientation. Sequence homologies with other bacterial integral-membrane hydrocarbon hydroxylases suggest that AlkM may be the first member of a new protein family. The genes identified here are not linked to the rubredoxin- and rubredoxin reductase-encoding genes on the Acinetobacter sp. strain ADP1 chromosome.
PMCID: PMC106126  PMID: 9546151
4.  Two Novel Alkane Hydroxylase-Rubredoxin Fusion Genes Isolated from a Dietzia Bacterium and the Functions of Fused Rubredoxin Domains in Long-Chain n-Alkane Degradation▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(20):7279-7288.
Two alkane hydroxylase-rubredoxin fusion gene homologs (alkW1 and alkW2) were cloned from a Dietzia strain, designated DQ12-45-1b, which can grow on crude oil and n-alkanes ranging in length from 6 to 40 carbon atoms as sole carbon sources. Both AlkW1 and AlkW2 have an integral-membrane alkane monooxygenase (AlkB) conserved domain and a rubredoxin (Rd) conserved domain which are fused together. Phylogenetic analysis showed that these two AlkB-fused Rd domains formed a novel third cluster with all the Rds from the alkane hydroxylase-rubredoxin fusion gene clusters in Gram-positive bacteria and that this third cluster was distant from the known AlkG1- and AlkG2-type Rds. Expression of the alkW1 gene in DQ12-45-1b was induced when cells were grown on C8 to C32 n-alkanes as sole carbon sources, but expression of the alkW2 gene was not detected. Functional heterologous expression in an alkB deletion mutant of Pseudomonas fluorescens KOB2Δ1 suggested the alkW1 could restore the growth of KOB2Δ1 on C14 and C16 n-alkanes and induce faster growth on C18 to C32 n-alkanes than alkW1ΔRd, the Rd domain deletion mutant gene of alkW1, which also caused faster growth than KOB2Δ1 itself. In addition, the artificial fusion of AlkB from the Gram-negative P. fluorescens CHA0 and the Rds from both Gram-negative P. fluorescens CHA0 and Gram-positive Dietzia sp. DQ12-45-1b significantly increased the degradation of C32 alkane compared to that seen with AlkB itself. In conclusion, the alkW1 gene cloned from Dietzia species encoded an alkane hydroxylase which increased growth on and degradation of n-alkanes up to C32 in length, with its fused rubredoxin domain being necessary to maintain the functions. In addition, the fusion of alkane hydroxylase and rubredoxin genes from both Gram-positive and -negative bacteria can increase the degradation of long-chain n-alkanes (such as C32) in the Gram-negative bacterium.
PMCID: PMC3194844  PMID: 21873474
5.  The Alkane Hydroxylase Gene of Burkholderia cepacia RR10 Is under Catabolite Repression Control 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(14):4202-4209.
In many microorganisms the first step for alkane degradation is the terminal oxidation of the molecule by an alkane hydroxylase. We report the characterization of a gene coding for an alkane hydroxylase in a Burkholderia cepacia strain isolated from an oil-contaminated site. The protein encoded showed similarity to other known or predicted bacterial alkane hydroxylases, although it clustered on a separate branch together with the predicted alkane hydroxylase of a Mycobacterium tuberculosis strain. Introduction of the cloned B. cepacia gene into an alkane hydroxylase knockout mutant of Pseudomonas fluorescens CHAO restored its ability to grow on alkanes, which confirms that the gene analyzed encodes a functional alkane hydroxylase. The gene, which was named alkB, is not linked to other genes of the alkane oxidation pathway. Its promoter was identified, and its expression was analyzed under different growth conditions. Transcription was induced by alkanes of chain lengths containing 12 to at least 30 carbon atoms as well as by alkanols. Although the gene was efficiently expressed during exponential growth, transcription increased about fivefold when cells approached stationary phase, a characteristic not shared by the few alkane degraders whose regulation has been studied. Expression of the alkB gene was under carbon catabolite repression when cells were cultured in the presence of several organic acids and sugars or in a complex (rich) medium. The catabolic repression process showed several characteristics that are clearly different from what has been observed in other alkane degradation pathways.
PMCID: PMC95309  PMID: 11418560
6.  Differential Expression of the Components of the Two Alkane Hydroxylases from Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(10):3232-3237.
Oxidation of n-alkanes in bacteria is normally initiated by an enzyme system formed by a membrane-bound alkane hydroxylase and two soluble proteins, rubredoxin and rubredoxin reductase. Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains PAO1 and RR1 contain genes encoding two alkane hydroxylases (alkB1 and alkB2), two rubredoxins (alkG1 and alkG2), and a rubredoxin reductase (alkT). We have localized the promoters for these genes and analyzed their expression under different conditions. The alkB1 and alkB2 genes were preferentially expressed at different moments of the growth phase; expression of alkB2 was highest during the early exponential phase, while alkB1 was induced at the late exponential phase, when the growth rate decreased. Both genes were induced by C10 to C22/C24 alkanes but not by their oxidation derivatives. However, the alkG1, alkG2, and alkT genes were expressed at constant levels in both the absence and presence of alkanes.
PMCID: PMC154056  PMID: 12730186
7.  Rubredoxins Involved in Alkane Oxidation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(6):1722-1732.
Rubredoxins (Rds) are essential electron transfer components of bacterial membrane-bound alkane hydroxylase systems. Several Rd genes associated with alkane hydroxylase or Rd reductase genes were cloned from gram-positive and gram-negative organisms able to grow on n-alkanes (Alk-Rds). Complementation tests in an Escherichia coli recombinant containing all Pseudomonas putida GPo1 genes necessary for growth on alkanes except Rd 2 (AlkG) and sequence comparisons showed that the Alk-Rds can be divided in AlkG1- and AlkG2-type Rds. All alkane-degrading strains contain AlkG2-type Rds, which are able to replace the GPo1 Rd 2 in n-octane hydroxylation. Most strains also contain AlkG1-type Rds, which do not complement the deletion mutant but are highly conserved among gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Common to most Rds are the two iron-binding CXXCG motifs. All Alk-Rds possess four negatively charged residues that are not conserved in other Rds. The AlkG1-type Rds can be distinguished from the AlkG2-type Rds by the insertion of an arginine downstream of the second CXXCG motif. In addition, the glycines in the two CXXCG motifs are usually replaced by other amino acids. Mutagenesis of residues conserved in either the AlkG1- or the AlkG2-type Rds, but not between both types, shows that AlkG1 is unable to transfer electrons to the alkane hydroxylase mainly due to the insertion of the arginine, whereas the exchange of the glycines in the two CXXCG motifs only has a limited effect.
PMCID: PMC134906  PMID: 11872724
8.  Analyses of both the alkB Gene Transcriptional Start Site and alkB Promoter-Inducing Properties of Rhodococcus sp. Strain BCP1 Grown on n-Alkanes▿ †  
Rhodococcus sp. strain BCP1, known for its capacity to grow on short-chain n-alkanes (C2 to C7) and to cometabolize chlorinated solvents, was found to also utilize medium- and long-chain n-alkanes (C12 to C24) as energy and carbon sources. To examine this feature in detail, a chromosomal region which includes the alkB gene cluster encoding a non-heme di-iron monooxygenase (alkB), two rubredoxins, and one rubredoxin reductase was cloned from the BCP1 genome. Furthermore, the activity of the alkB gene promoter (PalkB) was examined in the presence of gaseous, liquid, and solid n-alkanes along with intermediates of the putative n-alkane degradation pathway. A recombinant plasmid, pTPalkBLacZ, was constructed by inserting the lacZ gene downstream of PalkB, and it was used to transform Rhodococcus sp. strain BCP1. Measurements of β-galactosidase activity showed that PalkB is induced by C6 to C22 n-alkanes. Conversely, C2 to C5 and >C22 n-alkanes and alkenes, such as hexene, were not inducers of alkB expression. The effects on PalkB expression induced by alternative carbon sources along with putative products of n-hexane metabolism were also evaluated. This report highlights the great versatility of Rhodococcus sp. strain BCP1 and defines for the first time the alkB gene transcriptional start site and the alkB promoter-inducing capacities for substrates different from n-alkanes in a Rhodococcus strain.
PMCID: PMC3067301  PMID: 21193665
9.  The Use of a Combination of alkB Primers to Better Characterize the Distribution of Alkane-Degrading Bacteria 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66565.
The alkane monooxygenase AlkB, which is encoded by the alkB gene, is a key enzyme involved in bacterial alkane degradation. To study the alkB gene within bacterial communities, researchers need to be aware of the variations in alkB nucleotide sequences; a failure to consider the sequence variations results in the low representation of the diversity and richness of alkane-degrading bacteria. To minimize this shortcoming, the use of a combination of three alkB-targeting primers to enhance the detection of the alkB gene in previously isolated alkane-degrading bacteria was proposed. Using this approach, alkB-related PCR products were detected in 79% of the strains tested. Furthermore, the chosen set of primers was used to study alkB richness and diversity in different soils sampled in Carmópolis, Brazil and King George Island, Antarctica. The DNA extracted from the different soils was PCR amplified with each set of alkB-targeting primers, and clone libraries were constructed, sequenced and analyzed. A total of 255 alkB phylotypes were detected. Venn diagram analyses revealed that only low numbers of alkB phylotypes were shared among the different libraries derived from each primer pair. Therefore, the combination of three alkB-targeting primers enhanced the richness of alkB phylotypes detected in the different soils by 45% to 139%, when compared to the use of a single alkB-targeting primer. In addition, a dendrogram analysis and beta diversity comparison of the alkB composition showed that each of the sampling sites studied had a particular set of alkane-degrading bacteria. The use of a combination of alkB primers was an efficient strategy for enhancing the detection of the alkB gene in cultivable bacteria and for better characterizing the distribution of alkane-degrading bacteria in different soil environments.
PMCID: PMC3688950  PMID: 23825163
10.  Identification of Novel Genes Involved in Long-Chain n-Alkane Degradation by Acinetobacter sp. Strain DSM 17874▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(10):3327-3332.
Acinetobacter sp. strain DSM 17874 is capable of utilizing n-alkanes with chain lengths ranging from that of decane (C10H22) to that of tetracontane (C40H82) as a sole carbon source. Two genes encoding AlkB-type alkane hydroxylase homologues, designated alkMa and alkMb, have been shown to be involved in the degradation of n-alkanes with chain lengths of from 10 to 20 C atoms in this strain. Here, we describe a novel high-throughput screening method and the screening of a transposon mutant library to identify genes involved in the degradation of n-alkanes with C chain lengths longer than 20, which are solid at 30°C, the optimal growth temperature for Acinetobacter sp. strain DSM 17874. A library consisting of approximately 6,800 Acinetobacter sp. strain DSM 17874 transposon mutants was constructed and screened for mutants unable to grow on dotriacontane (C32H66) while simultaneously showing wild-type growth characteristics on shorter-chain n-alkanes. For 23 such mutants isolated, the genes inactivated by transposon insertion were identified. Targeted inactivation and complementation studies of one of these genes, designated almA and encoding a putative flavin-binding monooxygenase, confirmed its involvement in the strain's metabolism of long-chain n-alkanes. To our knowledge, almA represents the first cloned gene shown to be involved in the bacterial degradation of long-chain n-alkanes of 32 C's and longer. Genes encoding AlmA homologues were also identified in other long-chain n-alkane-degrading Acinetobacter strains.
PMCID: PMC1907095  PMID: 17400787
11.  Characterization and Two-Dimensional Crystallization of Membrane Component AlkB of the Medium-Chain Alkane Hydroxylase System from Pseudomonas putida GPo1 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(22):7946-7953.
The alkane hydroxylase system of Pseudomonas putida GPo1 allows it to use alkanes as the sole source of carbon and energy. Bacterial alkane hydroxylases have tremendous potential as biocatalysts for the stereo- and regioselective transformation of a wide range of chemically inert unreactive alkanes into valuable reactive chemical precursors. We have produced and characterized the first 2-dimensional crystals of the integral membrane component of the P. putida alkane hydroxylase system, the nonheme di-iron alkane monooxygenase AlkB. Our analysis reveals for the first time that AlkB reconstituted into a lipid bilayer forms trimers. Addition of detergents that do not disrupt the AlkB oligomeric state (decyl maltose neopentyl glycol [DMNG], lauryl maltose neopentyl glycol [LMNG], and octaethylene glycol monododecyl ether [C12E8]) preserved its activity at a level close to that of the detergent-free control sample. In contrast, the monomeric form of AlkB produced by purification in n-decyl-β-d-maltopyranoside (DM), n-dodecyl-β-d-maltopyranoside (DDM), octyl glucose neopentyl glycol (OGNG), and n-dodecyl-N,N-dimethylamine-N-oxide (LDAO) was largely inactive. This is the first indication that the physiologically active form of membrane-embedded AlkB may be a multimer. We present for the first time experimental evidence that 1-octyne acts as a mechanism-based inhibitor of AlkB. Therefore, despite the lack of any significant full-length sequence similarity with members of other monooxygenase classes that catalyze the terminal oxidation of alkanes, AlkB is likely to share a similar catalytic mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3485972  PMID: 22941083
12.  Expression of Alkane Hydroxylase from Acinetobacter sp. Strain ADP1 Is Induced by a Broad Range of n-Alkanes and Requires the Transcriptional Activator AlkR 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(22):5822-5827.
In Acinetobacter sp. strain ADP1, alkane degradation depends on at least five essential genes. rubAB and xcpR are constitutively transcribed. Here we describe inducible transcription of alkM, which strictly depends on the presence of the transcriptional activator AlkR. alkR itself is expressed at a low level, while a chromosomally located alkM::lacZ fusion is inducible by middle-chain-length alkanes from heptane to undecane, which do not support growth of ADP1, and by long-chain-length alkanes from dodecane to octadecane, which are used as sources of carbon and energy. The putative AlkM substrate 1-dodecene is also an effective inducer. Products of alkane hydroxylase activity like 1-dodecanol prevent induction of alkM expression. alkM is expressed only in stationary phase, suggesting its dependence on at least one other regulatory mechanism.
PMCID: PMC107653  PMID: 9811637
13.  In Vivo Evolution of Butane Oxidation by Terminal Alkane Hydroxylases AlkB and CYP153A6▿ † 
Enzymes of the AlkB and CYP153 families catalyze the first step in the catabolism of medium-chain-length alkanes, selective oxidation of the alkane to the 1-alkanol, and enable their host organisms to utilize alkanes as carbon sources. Small, gaseous alkanes, however, are converted to alkanols by evolutionarily unrelated methane monooxygenases. Propane and butane can be oxidized by CYP enzymes engineered in the laboratory, but these produce predominantly the 2-alkanols. Here we report the in vivo-directed evolution of two medium-chain-length terminal alkane hydroxylases, the integral membrane di-iron enzyme AlkB from Pseudomonas putida GPo1 and the class II-type soluble CYP153A6 from Mycobacterium sp. strain HXN-1500, to enhance their activity on small alkanes. We established a P. putida evolution system that enables selection for terminal alkane hydroxylase activity and used it to select propane- and butane-oxidizing enzymes based on enhanced growth complementation of an adapted P. putida GPo12(pGEc47ΔB) strain. The resulting enzymes exhibited higher rates of 1-butanol production from butane and maintained their preference for terminal hydroxylation. This in vivo evolution system could be useful for directed evolution of enzymes that function efficiently to hydroxylate small alkanes in engineered hosts.
PMCID: PMC2620723  PMID: 19011057
14.  Proteomic Insights into Metabolic Adaptations in Alcanivorax borkumensis Induced by Alkane Utilization 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(11):3763-3773.
Alcanivorax borkumensis is a ubiquitous marine petroleum oil-degrading bacterium with an unusual physiology specialized for alkane metabolism. This “hydrocarbonoclastic” bacterium degrades an exceptionally broad range of alkane hydrocarbons but few other substrates. The proteomic analysis presented here reveals metabolic features of the hydrocarbonoclastic lifestyle. Specifically, hexadecane-grown and pyruvate-grown cells differed in the expression of 97 cytoplasmic and membrane-associated proteins whose genes appeared to be components of 46 putative operon structures. Membrane proteins up-regulated in alkane-grown cells included three enzyme systems able to convert alkanes via terminal oxidation to fatty acids, namely, enzymes encoded by the well-known alkB1 gene cluster and two new alkane hydroxylating systems, a P450 cytochrome monooxygenase and a putative flavin-binding monooxygenase, and enzymes mediating β-oxidation of fatty acids. Cytoplasmic proteins up-regulated in hexadecane-grown cells reflect a central metabolism based on a fatty acid diet, namely, enzymes of the glyoxylate bypass and of the gluconeogenesis pathway, able to provide key metabolic intermediates, like phosphoenolpyruvate, from fatty acids. They also include enzymes for synthesis of riboflavin and of unsaturated fatty acids and cardiolipin, which presumably reflect membrane restructuring required for membranes to adapt to perturbations induced by the massive influx of alkane oxidation enzymes. Ancillary functions up-regulated included the lipoprotein releasing system (Lol), presumably associated with biosurfactant release, and polyhydroxyalkanoate synthesis enzymes associated with carbon storage under conditions of carbon surfeit. The existence of three different alkane-oxidizing systems is consistent with the broad range of oil hydrocarbons degraded by A. borkumensis and its ecological success in oil-contaminated marine habitats.
PMCID: PMC1482905  PMID: 16707669
15.  Functional Analysis of Alkane Hydroxylases from Gram-Negative and Gram-Positive Bacteria 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(6):1733-1742.
We have cloned homologs of the Pseudomonas putida GPo1 alkane hydroxylase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1, Pseudomonas fluorescens CHA0, Alcanivorax borkumensis AP1, Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv, and Prauserella rugosa NRRL B-2295. Sequence comparisons show that the level of protein sequence identity between the homologs is as low as 35%, and that the Pseudomonas alkane hydroxylases are as distantly related to each other as to the remaining alkane hydroxylases. Based on the observation that rubredoxin, an electron transfer component of the GPo1 alkane hydroxylase system, can be replaced by rubredoxins from other alkane hydroxylase systems, we have developed three recombinant host strains for the functional analysis of the novel alkane hydroxylase genes. Two hosts, Escherichia coli GEc137 and P. putida GPo12, were equipped with pGEc47ΔB, which encodes all proteins necessary for growth on medium-chain-length alkanes (C6 to C12), except a functional alkane hydroxylase. The third host was an alkB knockout derivative of P. fluorescens CHA0, which is no longer able to grow on C12 to C16 alkanes. All alkane hydroxylase homologs, except the Acinetobacter sp. ADP1 AlkM, allowed at least one of the three hosts to grow on n-alkanes.
PMCID: PMC134907  PMID: 11872725
16.  The PalkBFGHJKL Promoter Is under Carbon Catabolite Repression Control in Pseudomonas oleovorans but Not in Escherichia coli alk+ Recombinants 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(5):1610-1616.
The alk genes are located on the OCT plasmid of Pseudomonas oleovorans and encode an inducible pathway for the utilization of n-alkanes as carbon and energy sources. We have investigated the influence of alternative carbon sources on the induction of this pathway in P. oleovorans and Escherichia coli alk+ recombinants. In doing so, we confirmed earlier reports that induction of alkane hydroxylase activity in pseudomonads is subject to carbon catabolite repression. Specifically, synthesis of the monooxygenase component AlkB is repressed at the transcriptional level. The alk genes have been cloned into plasmid pGEc47, which has a copy number of about 5 to 10 per cell in both E. coli and pseudomonads. Pseudomonas putida GPo12 is a P. oleovorans derivative cured of the OCT plasmid. Upon introduction of pGEc47 in this strain, carbon catabolite repression of alkane hydroxylase activity was reduced significantly. In cultures of recombinant E. coli HB101 and W3110 carrying pGEc47, induction of AlkB and transcription of the alkB gene were no longer subject to carbon catabolite repression. This suggests that carbon catabolite repression of alkane degradation is regulated differently in Pseudomonas and in E. coli strains. These results also indicate that PalkBFGHJKL, the Palk promoter, might be useful in attaining high expression levels of heterologous genes in E. coli grown on inexpensive carbon sources which normally trigger carbon catabolite repression of native expression systems in this host.
PMCID: PMC93552  PMID: 10049394
17.  Alkane hydroxylase gene (alkB) phylotype composition and diversity in northern Gulf of Mexico bacterioplankton 
Natural and anthropogenic activities introduce alkanes into marine systems where they are degraded by alkane hydroxylases expressed by phylogenetically diverse bacteria. Partial sequences for alkB, one of the structural genes of alkane hydroxylase, have been used to assess the composition of alkane-degrading communities, and to determine their responses to hydrocarbon inputs. We present here the first spatially extensive analysis of alkB in bacterioplankton of the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM), a region that experiences numerous hydrocarbon inputs. We have analyzed 401 partial alkB gene sequences amplified from genomic extracts collected during March 2010 from 17 water column samples that included surface waters and bathypelagic depths. Previous analyses of 16S rRNA gene sequences for these and related samples have shown that nGoM bacterial community composition and structure stratify strongly with depth, with distinctly different communities above and below 100 m. Although we hypothesized that alkB gene sequences would exhibit a similar pattern, PCA analyses of operational protein units (OPU) indicated that community composition did not vary consistently with depth or other major physical-chemical variables. We observed 22 distinct OPUs, one of which was ubiquitous and accounted for 57% of all sequences. This OPU clustered with AlkB sequences from known hydrocarbon oxidizers (e.g., Alcanivorax and Marinobacter). Some OPUs could not be associated with known alkane degraders, however, and perhaps represent novel hydrocarbon-oxidizing populations or genes. These results indicate that the capacity for alkane hydrolysis occurs widely in the nGoM, but that alkane degrader diversity varies substantially among sites and responds differently than bulk communities to physical-chemical variables.
PMCID: PMC3860262  PMID: 24376439
alkane hydroxylases; AlkB; bacterioplankton; diversity; Gulf of Mexico
18.  Gene Structures and Regulation of the Alkane Hydroxylase Complex in Acinetobacter sp. Strain M-1 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(5):1819-1823.
In the long-chain n-alkane degrader Acinetobacter sp. strain M-1, two alkane hydroxylase complexes are switched by controlling the expression of two n-alkane hydroxylase-encoding genes in response to the chain length of n-alkanes, while rubredoxin and rubredoxin ruductase are encoded by a single gene and expressed constitutively.
PMCID: PMC95074  PMID: 11160120
19.  Effects of different compost amendments on the abundance and composition of alkB harboring bacterial communities in a soil under industrial use contaminated with hydrocarbons 
Alkane degrading microorganisms play an important role for the bioremediation of petrogenic contaminated environments. In this study, we investigated the effects of compost addition on the abundance and diversity of bacteria harboring the alkane monooxygenase gene (alkB) in an oil-contaminated soil originated from an industrial zone in Celje, Slovenia (Technosol). Soil without any amendments (control soil) and soil amended with two composts differing in their maturation stage and nutrient availability, were incubated under controlled conditions in a microcosm experiment and sampled after 0, 6, 12, and 36 weeks of incubation. As expected the addition of compost stimulated the degradation of alkanes in the investigated soil shortly after the addition. By using quantitative real-time PCR higher number of alkB genes were detected in soil samples amended with compost compared to the control soils. To get an insight into the composition of alkB harboring microbial communities, we performed next generation sequencing of amplicons of alkB gene fragment. Richness and diversity of alkB gene harboring prokaryotes was higher in soil mixed with compost compared to control soils with stronger effects of the less maturated, nutrient poor compost. The phylogenetic analysis of communities suggested that the addition of compost stimulated the abundance of alkB harboring Actinobacteria during the experiment independent from the maturation stage of the compost. AlkB harboring γ-proteobacteria like Shewanella or Hydrocarboniphaga as well as α-proteobacteria of the genus Agrobacterium responded also positively to the addition of compost to soil. The amendment of the less maturated, nutrient poor compost resulted in addition in a large increase of alkB harboring bacteria of the Cytophaga group (Microscilla) mainly at the early sampling time points. Our data indicates that compost amendments significantly change abundance and diversity pattern of alkB harboring microbes in Technosol and might be a useful agent to stimulate bioremediation of hydrocarbons in contaminated soils.
PMCID: PMC3952045  PMID: 24659987
alkane monooxygenase alkB; compost; contaminated soils; bioremediation; next generation sequencing
20.  The Genome of the Moderate Halophile Amycolicicoccus subflavus DQS3-9A1T Reveals Four Alkane Hydroxylation Systems and Provides Some Clues on the Genetic Basis for Its Adaptation to a Petroleum Environment 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70986.
The moderate halophile Amycolicicoccus subflavus DQS3-9A1T is the type strain of a novel species in the recently described novel genus Amycolicicoccus, which was isolated from oil mud precipitated from oil produced water. The complete genome of A. subflavus DQS3-9A1T has been sequenced and is characteristic of harboring the genes for adaption to the harsh petroleum environment with salinity, high osmotic pressure, and poor nutrient levels. Firstly, it characteristically contains four types of alkane hydroxylases, including the integral-membrane non-heme iron monooxygenase (AlkB) and cytochrome P450 CYP153, a long-chain alkane monooxygenase (LadA) and propane monooxygenase. It also accommodates complete pathways for the response to osmotic pressure. Physiological tests proved that the strain could grow on n-alkanes ranging from C10 to C36 and propane as the sole carbon sources, with the differential induction of four kinds of alkane hydroxylase coding genes. In addition, the strain could grow in 1–12% NaCl with the putative genes responsible for osmotic stresses induced as expected. These results reveal the effective adaptation of the strain DQS3-9A1T to harsh oil environment and provide a genome platform to investigate the global regulation of different alkane metabolisms in bacteria that are crucially important for petroleum degradation. To our knowledge, this is the first report to describe the co-existence of such four types of alkane hydroxylases in a bacterial strain.
PMCID: PMC3743902  PMID: 23967144
21.  Novel Alkane Hydroxylase Gene (alkB) Diversity in Sediments Associated with Hydrocarbon Seeps in the Timor Sea, Australia▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(23):7391-7398.
Hydrocarbon seeps provide inputs of petroleum hydrocarbons to widespread areas of the Timor Sea. Alkanes constitute the largest proportion of chemical components found in crude oils, and therefore genes involved in the biodegradation of these compounds may act as bioindicators for this ecosystem's response to seepage. To assess alkane biodegradation potential, the diversity and distribution of alkane hydroxylase (alkB) genes in sediments of the Timor Sea were studied. Deduced AlkB protein sequences derived from clone libraries identified sequences only distantly related to previously identified AlkB sequences, suggesting that the Timor Sea maybe a rich reservoir for novel alkane hydroxylase enzymes. Most sequences clustered with AlkB sequences previously identified from marine Gammaproteobacteria though protein sequence identities averaged only 73% (with a range of 60% to 94% sequence identities). AlkB sequence diversity was lower in deep water (>400 m) samples off the continental slope than in shallow water (<100 m) samples on the continental shelf but not significantly different in response to levels of alkanes. Real-time PCR assays targeting Timor Sea alkB genes were designed and used to quantify alkB gene targets. No correlation was found between gene copy numbers and levels of hydrocarbons measured in sediments using sensitive gas chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques, probably due to the very low levels of hydrocarbons found in most sediment samples. Interestingly, however, copy numbers of alkB genes increased substantially in sediments exposed directly to active seepage even though only low or undetectable concentrations of hydrocarbons were measured in these sediments in complementary geochemical analyses due to efficient biodegradation.
PMCID: PMC2786413  PMID: 19820158
22.  Fractionation of inducible alkane hydroxylase activity in Pseudomonas putida and characterization of hydroxylase-negative plasmid mutations. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1977;132(2):614-621.
The plasmid-determined inducible alkane hydroxylase of Pseudomonas putida resolved into particulate and soluble fractions. Spinach reductase and spinach ferredoxin could replace the soluble hydroxylase component. Two alkane hydroxylase mutants show in vitro complementation (S. Benson and J. Shapiro, J. Bacteriol., 123: 759-760, 1975): one, alk-7, lacks an active soluble component and the other, alk-181, lacks an active particulate component. Together with previous results on a particulate alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme (Benson and Shapiro, J. Bacteriol., 126: 794-798, 1976), these results allowed us to assay three plasmid-determined inducible activities: soluble alkane hydroxylase (alkA+), particulate alkane hydroxylase (alkB+), and particulate alcohol dehydrogenase (alkC+). Growth tests and in vitro complementation assays revealed three groups of plasmid mutations that block expression of alkane hydroxylase activity: alkA, which so far includes only the alk-7 mutation; alkB, which includes alk-181 and 11 other mutations; and a pleiotropic-negative class, which includes nine mutations that lead to loss of alkA+, alkB+, and alkC+ activities. Thus, the alk+ gene cluster found on IncP-2 plasmids contains at least four cistrons. We believe it is significant that two of these determined the presence of membrane proteins. The accompanying paper shows that these loci are part of a single regulon.
PMCID: PMC221903  PMID: 410794
23.  Plant litter and soil type drive abundance, activity and community structure of alkB harbouring microbes in different soil compartments 
The ISME Journal  2012;6(9):1763-1774.
Alkanes are major constituents of plant-derived waxy materials. In this study, we investigated the abundance, community structure and activity of bacteria harbouring the alkane monooxygenase gene alkB, which catalyses a major step in the pathway of aerobic alkane degradation in the litter layer, the litter–soil interface and in bulk soil at three time points during the degradation of maize and pea plant litter (2, 8 and 30 weeks) to improve our understanding about drivers for microbial performance in different soil compartments. Soil cores of different soil textures (sandy and silty) were taken from an agricultural field and incubated at constant laboratory conditions. The abundance of alkB genes and transcripts (by qPCR) as well as the community structure (by terminal restriction fragment polymorphism fingerprinting) were measured in combination with the concentrations and composition of alkanes. The results obtained indicate a clear response pattern of all investigated biotic and abiotic parameters depending on the applied litter material, the type of soil used, the time point of sampling and the soil compartment studied. As expected the distribution of alkanes of different chain length formed a steep gradient from the litter layer to the bulk soil. Mainly in the two upper soil compartments community structure and abundance patterns of alkB were driven by the applied litter type and its degradation. Surprisingly, the differences between the compartments in one soil were more pronounced than the differences between similar compartments in the two soils studied. This indicates the necessity for analysing processes in different soil compartments to improve our mechanistic understanding of the dynamics of distinct functional groups of microbes.
PMCID: PMC3498921  PMID: 22402403
alkane monooxygenase; microbial community function; plant litter; soil compartments; waxes
24.  Inactivation of Cytochrome o Ubiquinol Oxidase Relieves Catabolic Repression of the Pseudomonas putida GPo1 Alkane Degradation Pathway 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(14):3785-3793.
Expression of the alkane degradation pathway encoded by the OCT plasmid of Pseudomonas putida GPo1 is regulated by two control systems. One relies on the transcriptional regulator AlkS, which activates expression of the pathway in the presence of alkanes. The other, which is a dominant global regulation control, represses the expression of the pathway genes when a preferred carbon source is present in the growth medium in addition to alkanes. This catabolite repression control occurs through a poorly characterized mechanism that ultimately regulates transcription from the two AlkS-activated promoters of the pathway. To identify the factors involved, a screening method was developed to isolate mutants without this control. Several isolates were obtained, all of which contained mutations that mapped to genes encoding cytochrome o ubiquinol oxidase, the main terminal oxidase of the electron transport chain under highly aerobic conditions. Elimination of this terminal oxidase led to a decrease in the catabolic repression observed both in rich Luria-Bertani medium and in a defined medium containing lactate or succinate as the carbon source. This suggests that catabolic repression could monitor the physiological or metabolic status by using information from the electron transport chain or from the redox state of the cell. Since inactivation of the crc gene also reduces catabolic repression in rich medium (although not that observed in a defined medium), a strain was generated lacking both the Crc function and the cytochrome o terminal oxidase. The two mutations had an additive effect in relieving catabolic repression in rich medium. This suggests that crc and cyo belong to different regulation pathways, both contributing to catabolic repression.
PMCID: PMC135178  PMID: 12081947
25.  CYP153A6, a Soluble P450 Oxygenase Catalyzing Terminal-Alkane Hydroxylation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(14):5220-5227.
The first and key step in alkane metabolism is the terminal hydroxylation of alkanes to 1-alkanols, a reaction catalyzed by a family of integral-membrane diiron enzymes related to Pseudomonas putida GPo1 AlkB, by a diverse group of methane, propane, and butane monooxygenases and by some membrane-bound cytochrome P450s. Recently, a family of cytoplasmic P450 enzymes was identified in prokaryotes that allow their host to grow on aliphatic alkanes. One member of this family, CYP153A6 from Mycobacterium sp. HXN-1500, hydroxylates medium-chain-length alkanes (C6 to C11) to 1-alkanols with a maximal turnover number of 70 min−1 and has a regiospecificity of ≥95% for the terminal carbon atom position. Spectroscopic binding studies showed that C6-to-C11 aliphatic alkanes bind in the active site with Kd values varying from ∼20 nM to 3.7 μM. Longer alkanes bind more strongly than shorter alkanes, while the introduction of sterically hindering groups reduces the affinity. This suggests that the substrate-binding pocket is shaped such that linear alkanes are preferred. Electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy in the presence of the substrate showed the formation of an enzyme-substrate complex, which confirmed the binding of substrates observed in optical titrations. To rationalize the experimental observations on a molecular scale, homology modeling of CYP153A6 and docking of substrates were used to provide the first insight into structural features required for terminal alkane hydroxylation.
PMCID: PMC1539980  PMID: 16816194

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