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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A new isolate, Gordonia sp. strain TY-5, is capable of growth on propane and n-alkanes with C13 to C22 carbon chains as the sole source of carbon. In whole-cell reactions, significant propane oxidation to 2-propanol was detected. A gene cluster designated prmABCD, which encodes the components of a putative dinuclear-iron-containing multicomponent monooxygenase, including the large and small subunits of the hydroxylase, an NADH-dependent acceptor oxidoreductase, and a coupling protein, was cloned and sequenced. A mutant with prmB disrupted (prmB::Kanr) lost the ability to grow on propane, and Northern blot analysis revealed that polycistronic transcription of the prm genes was induced during its growth on propane. These results indicate that the prmABCD gene products play an essential role in propane oxidation by the bacterium. Downstream of the prm genes, an open reading frame (adh1) encoding an NAD+-dependent secondary alcohol dehydrogenase was identified, and the protein was purified and characterized. The Northern blot analysis results and growth properties of a disrupted mutant (adh1::Kanr) indicate that Adh1 plays a major role in propane metabolism. Two additional NAD+-dependent secondary alcohol dehydrogenases (Adh2 and Adh3) were also found to be involved in 2-propanol oxidation. On the basis of these results, we conclude that Gordonia sp. strain TY-5 oxidizes propane by monooxygenase-mediated subterminal oxidation via 2-propanol.
Pseudomonas oleovorans GPo1 can metabolize medium-chain-length alkanes by means of an enzymatic system whose induction is regulated by the AlkS protein. In the presence of alkanes, AlkS activates the expression of promoter PalkB, from which most of the genes of the pathway are transcribed. In addition, expression of the first enzyme of the pathway, alkane hydroxylase, is known to be influenced by the carbon source present in the growth medium, indicating the existence of an additional overimposed level of regulation associating expression of the alk genes with the metabolic status of the cell. Reporter strains bearing PalkB-lacZ transcriptional fusions were constructed to analyze the influence of the carbon source on induction of the PalkB promoter by a nonmetabolizable inducer. Expression was most efficient when cells grew at the expense of citrate, decreasing significantly when the carbon source was lactate or succinate. When cells were grown in Luria-Bertani rich medium, PalkB was strongly down-regulated. This effect was partially relieved when multiple copies of the gene coding for the AlkS activator were present and was not observed when the promoter was moved to Escherichia coli, a heterologous genetic background. Possible mechanisms responsible for PalkB regulation are discussed.
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.
The psychrotroph Rhodococcus sp. strain Q15 was examined for its ability to degrade individual n-alkanes and diesel fuel at low temperatures, and its alkane catabolic pathway was investigated by biochemical and genetic techniques. At 0 and 5°C, Q15 mineralized the short-chain alkanes dodecane and hexadecane to a greater extent than that observed for the long-chain alkanes octacosane and dotriacontane. Q15 utilized a broad range of aliphatics (C10 to C21 alkanes, branched alkanes, and a substituted cyclohexane) present in diesel fuel at 5°C. Mineralization of hexadecane at 5°C was significantly greater in both hydrocarbon-contaminated and pristine soil microcosms seeded with Q15 cells than in uninoculated control soil microcosms. The detection of hexadecane and dodecane metabolic intermediates (1-hexadecanol and 2-hexadecanol and 1-dodecanol and 2-dodecanone, respectively) by solid-phase microextraction–gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and the utilization of potential metabolic intermediates indicated that Q15 oxidizes alkanes by both the terminal oxidation pathway and the subterminal oxidation pathway. Genetic characterization by PCR and nucleotide sequence analysis indicated that Q15 possesses an aliphatic aldehyde dehydrogenase gene highly homologous to the Rhodococcus erythropolis thcA gene. Rhodococcus sp. strain Q15 possessed two large plasmids of approximately 90 and 115 kb (shown to mediate Cd resistance) which were not required for alkane mineralization, although the 90-kb plasmid enhanced mineralization of some alkanes and growth on diesel oil at both 5 and 25°C.
Pseudomonas putida strains carrying the plasmid alk genes will grow on n-alkanes. Induced alk+ strains contain membrane activities for alkane hydroxylation and dehydrogenation of aliphatic primary alcohols. P. putida cytoplasmic and outer membranes can be separated by sucrose gradient centrifugation after disruption of cells by either mild detergent lysis or passage through a French press. Both the membrane component of alkane hydroxylase and membrane alcohol dehydrogenase fractionated with the cytoplasmic membrane. Induction of the alk regulon resulted in the appearance of at least three new plasmid-determined cytoplasmic membrane peptides of about 59,000 (59K), 47,000 (47K), and 40,000 (40K) daltons as well as the disappearance of a pair of chromosomally encoded outer membrane peptides of about 43,000 daltons. The 40K peptide is the membrane component of alkane hydroxylase and the product of the plasmid alkB gene because the alkB1029 mutation altered the properties of alkane hydroxylase in whole cells, reduced its thermal stability in cell extracts, and led to increased electrophoretic mobility of the inducible 40K peptide. These results are consistent with a model for vectorial oxidation of n-alkanes in the cytoplasmic membrane of P. putida.
Biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in cold environments, including Alpine soils, is a result of indigenous cold-adapted microorganisms able to degrade these contaminants. In the present study, the prevalence of seven genotypes involved in the degradation of n-alkanes (Pseudomonas putida GPo1 alkB; Acinetobacter spp. alkM; Rhodococcus spp. alkB1, and Rhodococcus spp. alkB2), aromatic hydrocarbons (P. putida xylE), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (P. putida ndoB and Mycobacterium sp. strain PYR-1 nidA) was determined in 12 oil-contaminated (428 to 30,644 mg of total petroleum hydrocarbons [TPH]/kg of soil) and 8 pristine Alpine soils from Tyrol (Austria) by PCR hybridization analyses of total soil community DNA, using oligonucleotide primers and DNA probes specific for each genotype. The soils investigated were also analyzed for various physical, chemical, and microbiological parameters, and statistical correlations between all parameters were determined. Genotypes containing genes from gram-negative bacteria (P. putida alkB, xylE, and ndoB and Acinetobacter alkM) were detected to a significantly higher percentage in the contaminated (50 to 75%) than in the pristine (0 to 12.5%) soils, indicating that these organisms had been enriched in soils following contamination. There was a highly significant positive correlation (P < 0.001) between the level of contamination and the number of genotypes containing genes from P. putida and Acinetobacter sp. but no significant correlation between the TPH content and the number of genotypes containing genes from gram-positive bacteria (Rhodococcus alkB1 and alkB2 and Mycobacterium nidA). These genotypes were detected at a high frequency in both contaminated (41.7 to 75%) and pristine (37.5 to 50%) soils, indicating that they are already present in substantial numbers before a contamination event. No correlation was found between the prevalence of hydrocarbon-degradative genotypes and biological activities (respiration, fluorescein diacetate hydrolysis, lipase activity) or numbers of culturable hydrocarbon-degrading soil microorganisms; there also was no correlation between the numbers of hydrocarbon degraders and the contamination level. The measured biological activities showed significant positive correlation with each other, with the organic matter content, and partially with the TPH content and a significant negative correlation with the soil dry-mass content (P < 0.05 to 0.001).
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.
Tagged mutants affected in the degradation of hydrophobic compounds (HC) were generated by insertion of a zeta-URA3 mutagenesis cassette (MTC) into the genome of a zeta-free and ura3 deletion-containing strain of Yarrowia lipolytica. MTC integration occurred predominantly at random by nonhomologous recombination. A total of 8,600 Ura+ transformants were tested by replica plating for (i) growth on minimal media with alkanes of different chain lengths (decane, dodecane, and hexadecane), oleic acid, tributyrin, or ethanol as the C source and (ii) colonial defects on different glucose-containing media (YPD, YNBD, and YNBcas). A total of 257 mutants were obtained, of which about 70 were affected in HC degradation, representing different types of non-alkane-utilizing (Alk−) mutants (phenotypic classes alkA to alkE) and tributyrin degradation mutants. Among Alk− mutants, growth defects depending on the alkane chain length were observed (alkAa to alkAc). Furthermore, mutants defective in yeast-hypha transition and ethanol utilization and selected auxotrophic mutants were isolated. Flanking borders of the integrated MTC were sequenced to identify the disrupted genes. Sequence analysis indicated that the MTC was integrated in the LEU1 locus in N083, a leucine-auxotrophic mutant, in the isocitrate dehydrogenase gene of N156 (alkE leaky), in the thioredoxin reductase gene in N040 (alkAc), and in a peroxine gene (PEX14) in N078 (alkD). This indicates that MTC integration is a powerful tool for generating and analyzing tagged mutants in Y. lipolytica.