FEMS microbiology reviews

The bacterial degradation of benzoic acid and benzenoid compounds under anaerobic conditions: unifying trends and new perspectives.

PMID 8011356


Simple homocyclic aromatic compounds are extremely abundant in the environment and are derived largely from lignin. Such compounds may enter anaerobic environments and several groups of bacteria, exhibiting diverse energy-yielding mechanisms, have evolved the capacity to overcome the thermodynamic stability of the benzene nucleus and degrade aromatic compounds under these conditions. Over the last few years considerable advances have been made in our understanding of the biochemical strategies underlying the bacterial degradation of aromatic compounds in anoxic environments. The study of the biochemistry, and more recently the molecular genetics of the photosynthetic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris and several strains of denitrifying pseudomonads, has provided the greatest insight into the mechanism and regulation of aromatic degradation under anaerobic conditions. Research has centred around the anaerobic degradation of benzoic acid. This involves the initial activation to form benzoyl-Coenzyme A, reduction of the aromatic nucleus--a reaction that has only recently been demonstrated in vitro--and the subsequent degradation of the alicyclic intermediates. Recently, much information regarding the exact nature of these intermediates has been obtained. Also through recent studies, it has become increasingly clear that benzoyl-CoA is a central metabolic intermediate during the anaerobic degradation of structurally diverse aromatic compounds. The initial metabolism of these compounds involves the formation of a carboxyl group on the aromatic nucleus (if necessary) and the synthesis of the respective Coenzyme A thioester; this results in the direct formation of benzoyl-Coenzyme A rather than benzoate. In many cases of anaerobic aromatic degradation studied in batch culture, aromatic intermediates are transiently excreted into the medium. It is argued that the study of this phenomenon may facilitate the understanding of the regulation and kinetics of the aromatic degradative pathways.