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Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 1997 Feb;71(1-2):159-78.

Evolution of novel metabolic pathways for the degradation of chloroaromatic compounds.

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Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology, EAWAG, Department of Microbiology, Duebendorf, Switzerland.


Chlorobenzenes are substrates not easily metabolized by existing bacteria in the environment. Specific strains, however, have been isolated from polluted environments or in laboratory selection procedures that use chlorobenzenes as their sole carbon and energy source. Genetic analysis indicated that these bacteria have acquired a novel combination of previously existing genes. One of these gene clusters contains the genes for an aromatic ring dioxygenase and a dihydrodiol dehydrogenase. The other contains the genes for a chlorocatechol oxidative pathway. Comparison of such gene clusters with those from other aromatics degrading bacteria reveals that this process of recombining or assembly of existing genetic material must have occurred in many of them. Similarities of gene functions between pathways suggest the incorporation of existing genetic material has been the most important mechanism of expanding a metabolic pathway. Only in a few cases a horizontal expansion, that is acquisition of gene functions to accommodate a wider range of substrates which are then all transformed in one central pathway, is observed on the genetic level. Evidence is presented indicating that the assembly process may trigger a faster divergence of nearby gene sequences. Further 'fine-tuning', for example by developing a proper regulation, is then the next step in the adaptation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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