, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 71–79 | Cite as

Ether-cleaving enzyme and diol dehydratase involved in anaerobic polyethylene glycol degradation by a new Acetobacterium sp.

  • Edgar Schramm
  • Bernhard Schink


A strictly anaerobic, homoacetogenic bacterium was enriched and isolated from anoxic sewage sludge with polyethylene glycol (PEG) 1000 as sole source of carbon and energy, and was assigned to the genus Acetobacterium on the basis of morphological and physiological properties. The new isolate fermented ethylene glycol and PEG's with molecular masses of 106 to 1000 to acetate and small amounts of ethanol. The PEG-degrading activity was not destroyed by proteinase K treatment of whole cells. In cell-free extracts, a diol dehydratase and a PEG-degrading (ether-cleaving) enzyme activity were detected which both formed acetaldehyde as reaction product. The diol dehydratase enzyme was oxygen-sensitive and was stimulated 10–14 fold by added adenosylcobalamine. This enzyme was found mainly in the cytoplasmic fraction (65%) and to some extent (35%) in the membrane fraction. The ether-cleaving enzyme activity reacted with PEG's of molecular masses of 106 to more than 20000. The enzyme was measurable optimally in buffers of high ionic strength (4.0), was extremely oxygen-sensitive, and was inhibited by various corrinoids (adenosylcobalamine, cyanocobalamine, hydroxocobalamine, methylcobalamine). This enzyme was found exclusively in the cytoplasmic fraction. It is concluded that PEG is degraded by this bacterium inside the cytoplasm by a hydroxyl shift reaction, analogous to a diol dehydratase reaction, to form an unstable hemiacetal intermediate. The name polyethylene glycol acetaldehyde lyase is suggested for the responsible enzyme.

Key words

anaerobic degradation ether cleavage reactions corrinoids Acetobacterium sp. polyethylene glycol acetaldehyde lyase 



ethylene glycol


diethylene glycol


triethylene glycol


tetraethylene glycol


polyethylene glycol (molecular mass indicated)


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edgar Schramm
    • 1
  • Bernhard Schink
    • 1
  1. 1.Lehrstuhl Mikrobiologie I der Eberhard-Karls-UniversitätTübingenGermany

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