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Anaerobic co-metabolic oxidation of 4-alkylphenols with medium-length or long alkyl chains by Thauera sp., strain R5

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A 4-alkylphenol-degrading facultative anaerobic bacterium, strain R5, was isolated from paddy soil after enrichment with 4-n-propylphenol, 4-n-butylphenol and 4-hydroxybenzoate (4-HBA) under nitrate-reducing conditions. Strain R5 is a Gram-negative rod bacillus grown on phenolic compounds with short alkyl chains (≤C2), organic acids and ethanol. The sequence of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene revealed that the strain is affiliated with Thauera sp. In the presence of 4-HBA as a carbon source, the strain transformed 4-n-alkylphenols with a medium or long-length alkyl chain (C3–C8) to the corresponding oxidised products as follows: 1-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1-alkenes, -(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1-alkanones and/or 1-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1-alcohols. The strain also transformed 4-i-propylphenol and 4-sec-butylphenol to (4-hydroxyphenyl)-i-propene and (4-hydroxyphenyl)-sec-butene but not 4-alkylphenols with tertiary alkyl chains (4-t-butylphenol or 4-t-octylphenol). The biotransformation did not proceed without another carbon source and was coupled with nitrate reduction. Biotransformation activity was high in the presence of p-cresol, 4-ethylphenol, 4′-hydroxyacetophenone and 4-HBA as carbon sources and low in the presence of organic acids and ethanol. We suggest that strain R5 co-metabolically transforms alkylphenols to the corresponding metabolites with oxidised alpha carbon in the alkyl chain during coupling with nitrate reduction.

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The authors wish to thank the members of the Aichi-ken Agricultural Research Center for providing the soil samples and Prof. F. Yoshimura from the Aichi Gakuin University for valuable suggestions, Dr Y. Inoue, Dr N. Yoshida and the members of the Research Group on Ecology and Environmental System of the EcoTopia Science Institute for helpful discussions. This research was partly supported by the JSPS KAKENHI (B2:17310045).

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Correspondence to Arata Katayama.

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Shibata, A., Katayama, A. Anaerobic co-metabolic oxidation of 4-alkylphenols with medium-length or long alkyl chains by Thauera sp., strain R5. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 75, 1151–1161 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-007-0918-8

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  • Anaerobic degradation
  • Nitrate reduction
  • Phenolic compound