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OMICS. 2007 Fall;11(3):252-79.

Metabolic diversity in bacterial degradation of aromatic compounds.

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  • 1Biotechnology Group, School of Biosciences and Bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, Powai, Mumbai, India.


Aromatic compounds pose a major threat to the environment, being mutagenic, carcinogenic, and recalcitrant. Microbes, however, have evolved the ability to utilize these highly reduced and recalcitrant compounds as a potential source of carbon and energy. Aerobic degradation of aromatics is initiated by oxidizing the aromatic ring, making them more susceptible to cleavage by ring-cleaving dioxygenases. A preponderance of aromatic degradation genes on plasmids, transposons, and integrative genetic elements (and their shuffling through horizontal gene transfer) have lead to the evolution of novel aromatic degradative pathways. This enables the microorganisms to utilize a multitude of aromatics via common routes of degradation leading to metabolic diversity. In this review, we emphasize the exquisiteness and relevance of bacterial degradation of aromatics, interlinked degradative pathways, genetic and metabolic regulation, carbon source preference, and biosurfactant production. We have also explored the avenue of metagenomics, which opens doors to a plethora of uncultured and uncharted microbial genetics and metabolism that can be used effectively for bioremediation.

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