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Metabolism of Hydrocarbons in n-Alkane-Utilizing Anaerobic Bacteria

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Bernard Golding


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The glycyl radical enzyme-catalyzed addition of n-alkanes to fumarate creates a C-C-bond between two concomitantly formed stereogenic carbon centers. The configurations of the two diastereoisomers of the product resulting from n-hexane activation by the n-alkane-utilizing denitrifying bacterium strain HxN1, i.e. (1-methylpentyl)succinate, were assigned as (2S,1'R) and (2R,1'R). Experiments with stereospecifically deuterated n-(2,5-H-2(2))hexanes revealed that exclusively the pro-S hydrogen atom is abstracted from C2 of the n-alkane by the enzyme and later transferred back to C3 of the alkylsuccinate formed. These results indicate that the alkylsuccinate-forming reaction proceeds with an inversion of configuration at the carbon atom (C2) of the n-alkane forming the new C-C-bond, and thus stereochemically resembles a S(N)2-type reaction. Therefore, the reaction may occur in a concerted manner, which may avoid the highly energetic hex-2-yl radical as an intermediate. The reaction is associated with a significant primary kinetic isotope effect (kH/kD >= 3) for hydrogen, indicating that the homolytic C-H-bond cleavage is involved in the first irreversible step of the reaction mechanism. The (1-methylalkyl)succinate synthases of n-alkane-utilizing anaerobic bacteria apparently have very broad substrate ranges enabling them to activate not only aliphatic but also alkyl-aromatic hydrocarbons. Thus, two denitrifiers and one sulfate reducer were shown to convert the nongrowth substrate toluene to benzylsuccinate and further to the dead-end product benzoyl-CoA. For this purpose, however, the modified beta-oxidation pathway known from alkylbenzene-utilizing bacteria was not employed, but rather the pathway used for n-alkane degradation involving CoA ligation, carbon skeleton rearrangement and decarboxylation. Furthermore, various n-alkane- and alkylbenzene-utilizing denitrifiers and sulfate reducers were found to be capable of forming benzyl alcohols from diverse alkylbenzenes, putatively via dehydrogenases. The thermophilic sulfate reducer strain TD3 forms n-alkylsuccinates during growth with n-alkanes or crude oil, which, based on the observed patterns of homologs, do not derive from a terminal activation of n-alkanes. (C) 2016 S. Karger AG, Basel

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wilkes H, Buckel W, Golding BT, Rabus R

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology

Year: 2016

Volume: 26

Issue: 1-3

Pages: 138-151

Print publication date: 01/03/2016

Online publication date: 10/03/2016

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

ISSN (print): 1464-1801

ISSN (electronic): 1660-2412

Publisher: KARGER


DOI: 10.1159/000442160