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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 1999 Jan;51(1):1-12.

Bacterial catabolic transposons.

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Department of Microbiology, National University of Singapore.


The introduction of foreign organic hydrocarbons into the environment in recent years, as in the widespread use of antibiotics, has resulted in the evolution of novel adaptive mechanisms by bacteria for the biodegradation of the organic pollutants. Plasmids have been implicated in the catabolism of many of these complex xenobiotics. The catabolic genes are prone to undergo genetic rearrangement and this is due to their presence on transposons or their association with transposable elements. Most of the catabolic transposons have structural features of the class I (composite) elements. These include transposons for chlorobenzoate (Tn5271), chlorobenzene (Tn5280), the newly discovered benzene catabolic transposon (Tn5542), and transposons encoding halogenated alkanoates and nylon-oligomer-degradative genes. Transposons for the catabolism of toluene (Tn4651, Tn4653, Tn4656) and naphthalene (Tn4655) belong to class II (Tn3 family) elements. Many catabolic genes have been associated with insertion sequences, which suggests that these gene clusters could be rapidly disseminated among the bacterial populations. This greatly expands the substrate range of the microorganisms in the environment and aids the evolution of new and novel degradative pathways. This enhanced metabolic versatility can be exploited for and is believed to play a major part in the bioremediation of polluted environments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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