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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Jun;72(6):4274-82.

Comparison of mechanisms of alkane metabolism under sulfate-reducing conditions among two bacterial isolates and a bacterial consortium.

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  • 1Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment, Foran Hall, Cook College, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 59 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8520, USA.


Recent studies have demonstrated that fumarate addition and carboxylation are two possible mechanisms of anaerobic alkane degradation. In the present study, we surveyed metabolites formed during growth on hexadecane by the sulfate-reducing isolates AK-01 and Hxd3 and by a mixed sulfate-reducing consortium. The cultures were incubated with either protonated or fully deuterated hexadecane; the sulfate-reducing consortium was also incubated with [1,2-13C2]hexadecane. All cultures were extracted, silylated, and analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. We detected a suite of metabolites that support a fumarate addition mechanism for hexadecane degradation by AK-01, including methylpentadecylsuccinic acid, 4-methyloctadecanoic acid, 4-methyloctadec-2,3-enoic acid, 2-methylhexadecanoic acid, and tetradecanoic acid. By using d34-hexadecane, mass spectral evidence strongly supporting a carbon skeleton rearrangement of the first intermediate, methylpentadecylsuccinic acid, was demonstrated for AK-01. Evidence indicating hexadecane carboxylation was not found in AK-01 extracts but was observed in Hxd3 extracts. In the mixed sulfate-reducing culture, however, metabolites consistent with both fumarate addition and carboxylation mechanisms of hexadecane degradation were detected, which demonstrates that multiple alkane degradation pathways can occur simultaneously within distinct anaerobic communities. Collectively, these findings underscore that fumarate addition and carboxylation are important alkane degradation mechanisms that may be widespread among phylogenetically and/or physiologically distinct microorganisms.

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