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J Bacteriol. 1997 May;179(10):3171-80.

p-Cymene catabolic pathway in Pseudomonas putida F1: cloning and characterization of DNA encoding conversion of p-cymene to p-cumate.

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National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561, USA.


Pseudomonas putida F1 utilizes p-cymene (p-isopropyltoluene) by an 11-step pathway through p-cumate (p-isopropylbenzoate) to isobutyrate, pyruvate, and acetyl coenzyme A. The cym operon, encoding the conversion of p-cymene to p-cumate, is located just upstream of the cmt operon, which encodes the further catabolism of p-cumate and is located, in turn, upstream of the tod (toluene catabolism) operon in P. putida F1. The sequences of an 11,236-bp DNA segment carrying the cym operon and a 915-bp DNA segment completing the sequence of the 2,673-bp DNA segment separating the cmt and tod operons have been determined and are discussed here. The cym operon contains six genes in the order cymBCAaAbDE. The gene products have been identified both by functional assays and by comparing deduced amino acid sequences to published sequences. Thus, cymAa and cymAb encode the two components of p-cymene monooxygenase, a hydroxylase and a reductase, respectively; cymB encodes p-cumic alcohol dehydrogenase; cymC encodes p-cumic aldehyde dehydrogenase; cymD encodes a putative outer membrane protein related to gene products of other aromatic hydrocarbon catabolic operons, but having an unknown function in p-cymene catabolism; and cymE encodes an acetyl coenzyme A synthetase whose role in this pathway is also unknown. Upstream of the cym operon is a regulatory gene, cymR. By using recombinant bacteria carrying either the operator-promoter region of the cym operon or the cmt operon upstream of genes encoding readily assayed enzymes, in the presence or absence of cymR, it was demonstrated that cymR encodes a repressor which controls expression of both the cym and cmt operons and is inducible by p-cumate but not p-cymene. Short (less than 350 bp) homologous DNA segments that are located upstream of cymR and between the cmt and tod operons may have been involved in recombination events that led to the current arrangement of cym, cmt, and tod genes in P. putida F1.

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