Bacterial Metabolism of Polychlorinated BiphenylsPieper D.H.a · Seeger M.b
aBiodegradation Research Group, Division of Microbiology, HZI, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany; bLaboratorio de Microbiología Molecular y Biotecnología Ambiental, Departamento de Química and Millennium Nucleus of Microbial Ecology and Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology, Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Valparaíso, Chile
Dietmar H. Pieper
Biodegradation Research Group, Division of Microbiology
Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, HZI, Inhoffenstrasse 7
DE–38124 Braunschweig (Germany)
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Microbial metabolism is responsible for the removal of persistent organic pollutants including PCBs from the environment. Anaerobic dehalogenation of highly chlorinated congeners in aquatic sediments is an important process, and recent evidence has indicated that Dehalococcoides and related organisms are predominantly responsible for this process. Such anaerobic dehalogenation generates lower chlorinated congeners which are easily degraded aerobically by enzymes of the biphenyl upper pathway (bph). Initial biphenyl 2,3-dioxygenases are generally considered the key enzymes of this pathway which determine substrate range and extent of PCB degradation. These enzymes have been subject to different protein evolution strategies, and subsequent enzymes have been considered as crucial for metabolism. Significant advances have been made regarding the mechanistic understanding of these enzymes, which has also included elucidation of the function of BphK glutathione transferase. So far, the genomes of two important PCB-metabolizing organisms, namely Burkholderia xenovorans strain LB400 and Rhodococcus sp. strain RHA1, have been sequenced, with the rational to better understand their overall physiology and evolution. Genomic and proteomic analysis also allowed a better evaluation of PCB toxicity. Like all bph gene clusters which have been characterized in detail, particularly in strains LB400 and RHA1, these genes were localized on mobile genetic elements endowing single strains and microbial communities with a high flexibility and adaptability. However, studies show that our knowledge on enzymes and genes involved in PCB metabolism is still rather fragmentary and that the diversity of bacterial strategies is highly underestimated. Overall, metabolism of biphenyl and PCBs should not be regarded as a simple linear pathway, but as a complex interplay between different catabolic gene modules.
© 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel
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