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Front Microbiol. 2014 Jul 15;5:346. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00346. eCollection 2014.

Microbial monoterpene transformations-a review.

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Department of Microbiology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology Bremen, Germany.


Isoprene and monoterpenes constitute a significant fraction of new plant biomass. Emission rates into the atmosphere alone are estimated to be over 500 Tg per year. These natural hydrocarbons are mineralized annually in similar quantities. In the atmosphere, abiotic photochemical processes cause lifetimes of minutes to hours. Microorganisms encounter isoprene, monoterpenes, and other volatiles of plant origin while living in and on plants, in the soil and in aquatic habitats. Below toxic concentrations, the compounds can serve as carbon and energy source for aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms. Besides these catabolic reactions, transformations may occur as part of detoxification processes. Initial transformations of monoterpenes involve the introduction of functional groups, oxidation reactions, and molecular rearrangements catalyzed by various enzymes. Pseudomonas and Rhodococcus strains and members of the genera Castellaniella and Thauera have become model organisms for the elucidation of biochemical pathways. We review here the enzymes and their genes together with microorganisms known for a monoterpene metabolism, with a strong focus on microorganisms that are taxonomically validly described and currently available from culture collections. Metagenomes of microbiomes with a monoterpene-rich diet confirmed the ecological relevance of monoterpene metabolism and raised concerns on the quality of our insights based on the limited biochemical knowledge.


acyclic monoterpene utilization; camphor; eucalyptol; isoprenoids; limonene; linalool; myrcene; pinene

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