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J Bacteriol. Dec 1989; 171(12): 6782–6790.
PMCID: PMC210577

Regulator and enzyme specificities of the TOL plasmid-encoded upper pathway for degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons and expansion of the substrate range of the pathway.


The TOL plasmid upper pathway operon encodes enzymes involved in the catabolism of aromatic hydrocarbons such as toluene and xylenes. The regulator of the gene pathway, the XylR protein, exhibits a very broad effector specificity, being able to recognize as effectors not only pathway substrates but also a wide variety of mono- and disubstituted methyl-, ethyl-, and chlorotoluenes, benzyl alcohols, and p-chlorobenzaldehyde. Benzyl alcohol dehydrogenase and benzaldehyde dehydrogenase, two upper pathway enzymes, exhibit very broad substrate specificities and transform unsubstituted substrates and m- and p-methyl-, m- and p-ethyl-, and m- and p-chloro-substituted benzyl alcohols and benzaldehydes, respectively, at a high rate. In contrast, toluene oxidase only oxidizes toluene, m- and p-xylene, m-ethyltoluene, and 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene [corrected], also at a high rate. A biological test showed that toluene oxidase attacks m- and p-chlorotoluene, albeit at a low rate. No evidence for the transformation of p-ethyltoluene by toluene oxidase has been found. Hence, toluene oxidase acts as the bottleneck step for the catabolism of p-ethyl- and m- and p-chlorotoluene through the TOL upper pathway. A mutant toluene oxidase able to transform p-ethyltoluene was isolated, and a mutant strain capable of fully degrading p-ethyltoluene was constructed with a modified TOL plasmid meta-cleavage pathway able to mineralize p-ethylbenzoate. By transfer of a TOL plasmid into Pseudomonas sp. strain B13, a clone able to slowly degrade m-chlorotoluene was also obtained.

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Selected References

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