Haloalkane degradation and assimilation by Rhodococcus rhodochrous NCIMB -13064

H. Curragh, O. Flynn, Mike Larkin, T.M. Stafford, J.T.G. Hamilton, D.B. Harper

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61 Citations (Scopus)


The bacterium Rhodococcus rhodochrous NCIMB 13064, isolated from an industrial site, could use a wide range of 1-haloalkanes as sole carbon source but apparently utilized several different mechanisms simultaneously for assimilation of substrate. Catabolism of 1-chlorobutane occurred mainly by attack at the C-1 atom by a hydrolytic dehalogenase with the formation of butanol which was metabolized via butyric acid. The detection of small amounts of gamma-butyrolactone in the medium suggested that some oxygenase attack at C-4 also occurred, leading to the formation of 4-chlorobutyric acid which subsequently lactonized chemically to gamma-butyrolactone. Although 1-chlorobutane-grown cells exhibited little dehalogenase activity on 1-chloroalkanes with chain lengths above C-10, the organism utilized such compounds as growth substrates with the release of chloride. Concomitantly, gamma-butyrolactone accumulated to 1 mM in the culture medium with 1-chlorohexadecane as substrate. Traces of 4-hydroxybutyric acid were also detected. It is suggested that attack on the long-chain chloroalkane is initiated by an oxygenase at the non-halogenated end of the molecule leading to the formation of an omega-chlorofatty acid. This is degraded by beta-oxidation to 4-chlorobutyric acid which is chemically lactonized to gamma-butyrolactone which is only slowly further catabolized via 4-hydroxybutyric acid and succinic acid. However, release of chloride into the medium during growth on long-chain chloroalkanes was insufficient to account for all the halogen present in the substrate. Analysis of the fatty acid composition of 1-chlorohexadecane-grown cells indicated that chlorofatty acids comprised 75% of the total fatty acid content with C-14:0, C-16:0, C-16:1, and C-18:1 acids predominating. Thus the incorporation of 16-chlorohexadecanoic acid, the product of oxygenase attack directly into cellular lipid represents a third route of chloroalkane assimilation. This pathway accounts at least in part for the incomplete mineralization of long-chain chloroalkane substrates. This is the first report of the coexistence of a dehalogenase and the ability to incorporate long-chain haloalkanes into the lipid fraction within a single organism and raises important questions regarding the biological treatment of haloalkane containing effluents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1433-1442
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1994


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