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Microb Biotechnol. 2008 Mar;1(2):158-69. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7915.2007.00014.x.

Physiological responses of Pseudomonas putida to formaldehyde during detoxification.

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Department of Environmental Protection, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, C/Prof. Albareda, 1, E-18008 Granada, Spain.


Pseudomonas putida KT2440 exhibits two formaldehyde dehydrogenases and two formate dehydrogenase complexes that allow the strain to stoichiometrically convert formaldehyde into CO(2). The strain tolerated up to 1.5 mM formaldehyde and died in the presence of 10 mM. In the presence of 0.5 mM formaldehyde, a sublethal concentration of this chemical, the growth rate decreased by about 40% with respect to growth in the absence of the toxicant. Transcriptomic analysis revealed that in response to low formaldehyde concentrations, a limited number of genes (52) were upregulated. Based on the function of these genes it seems that sublethal concentrations of HCOH trigger responses to overcome DNA and protein damage, extrude this toxic compound, and detoxify it by converting the chemical to CO(2). In strains bearing mutations of the upregulated genes we analysed growth inhibition by 1.5 mM HCOH and killing rates by 10 mM HCOH. Mutants in the MexEF/OprN efflux pump and in the DNA repair genes recA and uvrB were hypersensitive to 10 mM HCOH, the killing rate being three to four orders of magnitude higher than those in the wild-type strain. Mutants in other upregulated genes died at slightly higher or at similar rates to the parental strain. Regarding growth inhibition, we found that mutants in glutathione biosynthesis, stress response mediated by 2-hydroxy acid dehydrogenases and two efflux pumps of the MSF family were unable to grow in the presence of 1.5 mM HCOH. In an independent screening test we searched for mutants which were hypersensitive to formaldehyde, but whose expression did not change in response to this chemical. Two mutants with insertions in recD and fhdA were found which were unable to grow in the presence of 1.5 mM HCOH. The recD mutant was hypersensitive to 10 mM HCOH and died at a higher rate than the parental strain.

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