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J Biol Chem. 1987 Dec 25;262(36):17712-8.

Controlled and functional expression of the Pseudomonas oleovorans alkane utilizing system in Pseudomonas putida and Escherichia coli.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.


The OCT plasmid encodes enzymes for alkane hydroxylation and alkanol dehydrogenation. Structural components are encoded on the 7.5-kilobase pair alkBAC operon, whereas positive regulatory components are encoded by alkR. We have constructed plasmids containing fusions of cloned alkBAC and alkR DNA and used these fusion plasmids to study the functional expression of the alkBAC operon and the regulatory locus alkR in Pseudomonas putida and in Escherichia coli. Growth on alkanes requires a functional chromosomally encoded fatty acid degradation system in addition to the plasmid-borne alk system. While such a system is active in P. putida, it is active in E. coli only in fadR mutants in which fatty acid degradation enzymes are expressed constitutively. Using such mutants, we found that E. coli as well as P. putida grew on octane as the sole source of carbon and energy when they were supplied with the cloned complete alk system. The alkR locus was strictly necessary in E. coli as well as in P. putida for expression of the alkBAC operon. The alkBAC operon could, however, be further reduced to a 5-kilobase pair operon without affecting the Alk phenotype in either species to a significant extent. Although with this reduction the plasmid-encoded alkanol dehydrogenase activity was lost, chromosomally encoded alkanol dehydrogenases in P. putida and E. coli compensated for this loss. The induction kinetics of the alk system was studied in detail in P. putida and E. coli. We used specific antibodies raised against alkane hydroxylase to follow the appearance of this protein following induction with octane. We found the induction kinetics of alkane hydroxylase to be similar in both species. A steady-state level was reached after about 2 h of induction in which time the alkane hydroxylase accounted for about 1.5% of total newly synthesized protein. Thus, alkBAC expression is very efficient and strictly regulated to both P. putida and E. coli.

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