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    A novel gene cluster involved in the degradation of lignin-derived monoaromatics such as p-hydroxybenzoate, vanillate, and ferulate has been identified in the thermophilic nitrate reducer Thermus oshimai JL-2. Based on conserved domain analyses and metabolic pathway mapping, the cluster was classified into upper- and peripheral-pathway operons. The upper-pathway genes, responsible for the degradation of p-hydroxybenzoate and vanillate, are located on a 0.27-Mb plasmid, whereas the peripheral-pathway genes, responsible for the transformation of ferulate, are spread throughout the plasmid and the chromosome. In addition, a lower-pathway operon was also identified in the plasmid that corresponds to the meta-cleavage pathway of catechol. Spectrophotometric and gene induction data suggest that the upper and lower operons are induced by p-hydroxybenzoate, which the strain can degrade completely within 4 days of incubation, whereas the peripheral genes are expressed constitutively. The upper degradation pathway follows a less common route, proceeding via the decarboxylation of protocatechuate to form catechol, and involves a novel thermostable γ-carboxymuconolactone decarboxylase homolog, identified as protocatechuate decarboxylase based on gene deletion experiments. This gene cluster is conserved in only a few members of the Thermales and shows traces of vertical expansion of catabolic pathways in these organisms toward lignoaromatics.IMPORTANCE High-temperature steam treatment of lignocellulosic biomass during the extraction of cellulose and hemicellulose fractions leads to the release of a wide array of lignin-derived aromatics into the natural ecosystem, some of which can have detrimental effects on the environment. Not only will identifying organisms capable of using such aromatics aid in environmental cleanup, but thermostable enzymes, if characterized, can also be used for efficient lignin valorization. However, no thermophilic lignin degraders have been reported thus far. The present study reports T. oshimai JL-2 as a thermophilic bacterium with the potential to use lignin-derived aromatics. The identification of a novel thermostable protocatechuate decarboxylase gene in the strain further adds to its significance, as such an enzyme can be efficiently used in the biosynthesis of cis,cis-muconate, an important intermediate in the commercial production of plastics. Copyright © 2021 American Society for Microbiology.


    Joydeep Chakraborty, Chiho Suzuki-Minakuchi, Takeo Tomita, Kazunori Okada, Hideaki Nojiri. A Novel Gene Cluster Is Involved in the Degradation of Lignin-Derived Monoaromatics in Thermus oshimai JL-2. Applied and environmental microbiology. 2021 May 11;87(11)

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    PMID: 33741620

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