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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 1998 Dec;22(5):399-419.

Microbial desulfonation.

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Fakultät für Biologie der Universität, Konstanz, Germany.


Organosulfonates are widespread compounds, be they natural products of low or high molecular weight, or xenobiotics. Many commonly found compounds are subject to desulfonation, even if it is not certain whether all the corresponding enzymes are widely expressed in nature. Sulfonates require transport systems to cross the cell membrane, but few physiological data and no biochemical data on this topic are available, though the sequences of some of the appropriate genes are known. Desulfonative enzymes in aerobic bacteria are generally regulated by induction, if the sulfonate is serving as a carbon and energy source, or by a global network for sulfur scavenging (sulfate-starvation-induced (SSI) stimulon) if the sulfonate is serving as a source of sulfur. It is unclear whether an SSI regulation is found in anaerobes. The anaerobic bacteria examined can express the degradative enzymes constitutively, if the sulfonate is being utilized as a carbon source, but enzyme induction has also been observed. At least three general mechanisms of desulfonation are recognisable or postulated in the aerobic catabolism of sulfonates: (1) activate the carbon neighboring the C-SO3- bond and release of sulfite assisted by a thiamine pyrophosphate cofactor; (2) destabilize the C-SO3- bond by addition of an oxygen atom to the same carbon, usually directly by oxygenation, and loss of the good leaving group, sulfite; (3) an unidentified, formally reductive reaction. Under SSIS control, different variants of mechanism (2) can be seen. Catabolism of sulfonates by anaerobes was discovered recently, and the degradation of taurine involves mechanism (1). When anaerobes assimilate sulfonate sulfur, there is one common, unknown mechanism to desulfonate the inert aromatic compounds and another to desulfonate inert aliphatic compounds; taurine seems to be desulfonated by mechanism (1).

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