Branched-chain amino acid catabolism of Thermoanaerobacter pseudoethanolicus reveals potential route to branched-chain alcohol formation

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The fermentation of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to branched-chain fatty acids (BCFAs) and branched-chain alcohols (BCOHs) is described using Thermoanaerobacter pseudoethanolicus. BCAAs were not degraded without an electron scavenging system but were degraded to a mixture of their BCFA (major) and BCOH (minor) when thiosulfate was added to the culture. Various environmental parameters were investigated using isoleucine as the substrate which ultimately demonstrated that at higher liquid–gas phase ratios the formation of 2-methyl-1-butanol from isoleucine achieved a maximal titer of 3.4 mM at a 1:1 liquid–gas ratio suggesting that higher partial pressure of hydrogen influences the BCOH/BCFA ratio but did not increase further with higher L–G phase ratios. Alternately, increasing the thiosulfate concentration decreased the BCOH to BCFA ratio. Kinetic monitoring of BCAA degradation revealed that the formation of BCOHs occurs slowly after the onset of BCFA formation. 13C2-labeled studies of leucine confirmed the production of a mixture of 3-methyl-1-butyrate and 3-methyl-1-butanol, while experiments involving 13C1-labeled 3-methyl-1-butyrate in fermentations containing leucine demonstrated that the carboxylic acid is reduced to the corresponding alcohol. Thus, the role of carboxylic acid reduction is likely of importance in the production of BCOH formation during the degradation of BCAA such as leucine.

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The authors are grateful for funding for this work from Landsvirkjun (NÝR-08 – 2015). The authors wish to thank Sigríður Jónsdóttir of the University of Iceland for her assistance with obtaining the NMR spectra and Eva María Ingvadóttir for her much appreciated editorial assistance.

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Correspondence to Johann Orlygsson.

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Scully, S.M., Orlygsson, J. Branched-chain amino acid catabolism of Thermoanaerobacter pseudoethanolicus reveals potential route to branched-chain alcohol formation. Extremophiles 24, 121–133 (2020).

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  • 2-Methyl-1-butanol
  • Carboxylic acid reduction
  • Thermophiles
  • Anaerobes