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Chem Rec. 2005;5(6):367-75.

Assimilation, dissimilation, and detoxification of formaldehyde, a central metabolic intermediate of methylotrophic metabolism.

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Division of Applied Life Sciences, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa-Oiwake, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


Methanol is a valuable raw material used in the manufacture of useful chemicals as well as a potential source of energy to replace coal and petroleum. Biotechnological interest in the microbial utilization of methanol has increased because it is an ideal carbon source and can be produced from renewable biomass. Formaldehyde, a cytotoxic compound, is a central metabolic intermediate in methanol metabolism. Therefore, microorganisms utilizing methanol have adopted several metabolic strategies to cope with the toxicity of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is initially detoxified through trapping by some cofactors, such as glutathione, mycothiol, tetrahydrofolate, and tetrahydromethanopterin, before being oxidized to CO2. Alternatively, free formaldehyde can be trapped by sugar phosphates as the first reaction in the C1 assimilation pathways: the xylulose monophosphate pathway for yeasts and the ribulose monophosphate (RuMP) pathway for bacteria. In yeasts, although formaldehyde generation and consumption takes place in the peroxisome, the cytosolic formaldehyde oxidation pathway also plays a role in formaldehyde detoxification as well as energy formation. The key enzymes of the RuMP pathway are found in a variety of microorganisms including bacteria and archaea. Regulation of the genes encoding these enzymes and their catalytic mechanisms depend on the physiological traits of these organisms during evolution.

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