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Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 7;7(1):7422. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-07370-x.

Common origin of methylenedioxy ring degradation and demethylation in bacteria.

Author information

1
Department of Organic Chemistry, Hoshi University, Ebara, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan. takeda@hoshi.ac.jp.
2
Department of Organic Chemistry, Hoshi University, Ebara, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan.
3
Department of Bioengineering, Nagaoka University of Technology, Kamitomioka, Nagaoka, Niigata, Japan.
4
Division of Integrated Life Science, Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa, Sakyo, Kyoto, Japan.
5
Department of Organic Chemistry, Hoshi University, Ebara, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan. hosoe@hoshi.ac.jp.

Abstract

Plants produce many specific secondary metabolites as a response to environmental stress, especially biological stress. These compounds show strong biological activities and high stability against degradation by microbes and animals. Berberine, a benzylisoquinoline alkaloid, is found in many plant species and has strong antimicrobial activity, and is often included in traditional herbal medicines. We previously investigated how berberine is degraded in nature and we isolated two berberine-utilizing bacteria. In this study, we characterized the gene encoding the enzyme that degrades the 2,3-methylenedioxy ring of berberine; this ring is important for its activity and stability. Further characterization of several other berberine-utilizing bacteria and the genes encoding key demethylenation enzymes revealed that these enzymes are tetrahydrofolate dependent and similar to demethylation enzymes such as GcvT. Because the degradation of O-methyl groups or the methylenedioxy ring in phenolic compounds such as lignin, lignan and many other natural products, including berberine, is the key step for the catabolism of these compounds, our discovery reveals the common origin of the catabolism of these stable chemicals in bacteria.

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