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J Bacteriol. 2002 Jul;184(13):3476-84.

Chloromethane-induced genes define a third C1 utilization pathway in Methylobacterium chloromethanicum CM4.

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Institut für Mikrobiologie, ETH Zürich, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland.


Methylobacterium chloromethanicum CM4 is an aerobic alpha-proteobacterium capable of growth with chloromethane as the sole carbon and energy source. Two proteins, CmuA and CmuB, were previously purified and shown to catalyze the dehalogenation of chloromethane and the vitamin B12-mediated transfer of the methyl group of chloromethane to tetrahydrofolate. Three genes located near cmuA and cmuB, designated metF, folD and purU and encoding homologs of methylene tetrahydrofolate (methylene-H4folate) reductase, methylene-H4folate dehydrogenase-methenyl-H4folate cyclohydrolase and formyl-H4folate hydrolase, respectively, suggested the existence of a chloromethane-specific oxidation pathway from methyl-tetrahydrofolate to formate in strain CM4. Hybridization and PCR analysis indicated that these genes were absent in Methylobacterium extorquens AM1, which is unable to grow with chloromethane. Studies with transcriptional xylE fusions demonstrated the chloromethane-dependent expression of these genes. Transcriptional start sites were mapped by primer extension and allowed to define three transcriptional units, each likely comprising several genes, that were specifically expressed during growth of strain CM4 with chloromethane. The DNA sequences of the deduced promoters display a high degree of sequence conservation but differ from the Methylobacterium promoters described thus far. As shown previously for purU, inactivation of the metF gene resulted in a CM4 mutant unable to grow with chloromethane. Methylene-H4folate reductase activity was detected in a cell extract of strain CM4 only in the presence of chloromethane but not in the metF mutant. Taken together, these data provide evidence that M. chloromethanicum CM4 requires a specific set of tetrahydrofolate-dependent enzymes for growth with chloromethane.

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