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J Biosci Bioeng. 2010 Jun;109(6):576-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiosc.2009.11.006. Epub 2009 Dec 2.

Degradation of natural estrogen and identification of the metabolites produced by soil isolates of Rhodococcus sp. and Sphingomonas sp.

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Research Center for Water Environment Technology, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8656 Japan.


Five bacterial strains capable of utilizing 17beta-estradiol (E2) and estrone (E1) were isolated from soil samples. Using their morphological and physiological features and 16S rDNA sequences, we classified these isolates into two groups: Group A (Rhodococcus sp. strains ED6, ED7, and ED10) and Group B (Sphingomonas sp. strains ED8 and ED9). All isolates used E2 and E1 as the sole carbon sources and showed high E1 and E2 degradation activities. In all strains, more than 50% of 0.8 mg of E1 or E2 was degraded in 4 mL of inorganic medium over 24 h, and 90% was degraded over 120 h. By incubating the resting ED8 cells with E2 and the meta-cleavage inhibitor 3-chlorocatechol, we identified two metabolites, 4-hydroxyestrone (4-OH-E1) and 4-hydroxyestradiol (4-OH-E2), and confirmed their identity using authentic chemicals. The 4-OH-E1 and 4-OH-E2 compounds were assumed to be intermediate metabolites formed before meta-cleavage, as they were not identified in culture without 3-chlorocatechol. Degradation of E2 by strain ED8 can be initiated by hydroxylation of the C-4 position, followed by meta-cleavage of the benzene ring. When strains ED8 degraded E2, we further identified hydroxy-E2, keto-E1 and -E2, and an additional degradation product via mass spectrometry. The presence of these compounds implied degradation through a second pathway initiated through an attack of the saturated ring.

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