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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2015 Mar;81(6):1966-76. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03103-14. Epub 2015 Jan 9.

Metabolism of 2-methylpropene (isobutylene) by the aerobic bacterium Mycobacterium sp. strain ELW1.

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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA


An aerobic bacterium (Mycobacterium sp. strain ELW1) that utilizes 2-methylpropene (isobutylene) as a sole source of carbon and energy was isolated and characterized. Strain ELW1 grew on 2-methylpropene (growth rate = 0.05 h(-1)) with a yield of 0.38 mg (dry weight) mg 2-methylpropene(-1). Strain ELW1 also grew more slowly on both cis- and trans-2-butene but did not grow on any other C2 to C5 straight-chain, branched, or chlorinated alkenes tested. Resting 2-methylpropene-grown cells consumed ethene, propene, and 1-butene without a lag phase. Epoxyethane accumulated as the only detected product of ethene oxidation. Both alkene consumption and epoxyethane production were fully inhibited in cells exposed to 1-octyne, suggesting that alkene oxidation is initiated by an alkyne-sensitive, epoxide-generating monooxygenase. Kinetic analyses indicated that 1,2-epoxy-2-methylpropane is rapidly consumed during 2-methylpropene degradation, while 2-methyl-2-propen-1-ol is not a significant metabolite of 2-methylpropene catabolism. Degradation of 1,2-epoxy-2-methylpropane by 2-methylpropene-grown cells led to the accumulation and further degradation of 2-methyl-1,2-propanediol and 2-hydroxyisobutyrate, two sequential metabolites previously identified in the aerobic microbial metabolism of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and tert-butyl alcohol (TBA). Growth of strain ELW1 on 2-methylpropene, 1,2-epoxy-2-methylpropane, 2-methyl-1,2-propanediol, and 2-hydroxyisobutyrate was fully inhibited when cobalt ions were omitted from the growth medium, while growth on 3-hydroxybutyrate and other substrates was unaffected by the absence of added cobalt ions. Our results suggest that, like aerobic MTBE- and TBA-metabolizing bacteria, strain ELW1 utilizes a cobalt/cobalamin-dependent mutase to transform 2-hydroxyisobutyrate. Our results have been interpreted in terms of their impact on our understanding of the microbial metabolism of alkenes and ether oxygenates.

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