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J Bacteriol. 1997 Apr;179(8):2573-81.

Genetic characterization and expression in heterologous hosts of the 3-(3-hydroxyphenyl)propionate catabolic pathway of Escherichia coli K-12.

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  • 1Departamento de Microbiología Molecular, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, Spain.


We report the complete nucleotide sequence of the gene cluster encoding the 3-(3-hydroxyphenyl)propionate (3-HPP) catabolic pathway of Escherichia coli K-12. Sequence analysis revealed the existence of eight genes that map at min 8 of the chromosome, between the lac and hemB regions. Six enzyme-encoding genes account for a flavin-type monooxygenase (mhpA), the extradiol dioxygenase (mhpB), and the meta-cleavage pathway (mhpCDFE). The order of these catabolic genes, with the sole exception of mhpF, parallels that of the enzymatic steps of the pathway. The mhpF gene may encode the terminal acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (acylating) not reported previously in the proposed pathway. Enzymes that catalyze the early reactions of the pathway, MhpA and MhpB, showed the lowest level of sequence similarity to analogous enzymes of other aromatic catabolic pathways. However, the genes mhpCDFE present the same organization and appear to be homologous to the Pseudomonas xyl, dmp, and nah meta-pathway genes, supporting the hypothesis of the modular evolution of catabolic pathways and becoming the first example of this type of catabolic module outside the genus Pseudomonas. Two bacterial interspersed mosaic elements were found downstream of the mhpABCDFE locus and flank a gene, orfT, which encodes a protein related to the superfamily of transmembrane facilitators that might be associated with transport. All of the genes of the 3-HPP cluster are transcribed in the same direction, with the sole exception of mhpR. Inducible expression of the mhp catabolic genes depends upon the presence, in the cis or trans position, of a functional mhpR gene, which suggests that the mhpR gene product is the activator of the 3-HPP biodegradative pathway. The primary structure of MhpR revealed significant similarities to that of members of the IclR subfamily of transcriptional regulators. A 3-HPP catabolic DNA cassette was engineered and shown to be functional not only in enteric bacteria (E. coli and Salmonella typhimurium) but also in Pseudomonas putida and Rhizobium meliloti, thus facilitating its potential application to improve the catabolic abilities of bacterial strains for degradation of aromatic compounds.

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