Initial reactions in anaerobic alkane degradation by a sulfate reducer, strain AK-01

Chi Ming So, L. Y. Young

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An alkane-degrading, sulfate-reducing bacterial strain, AK-01, isolated from a petroleum-contaminated sediment was studied to elucidate its mechanism of alkane metabolism. Total cellular fatty acids of AK-01 were predominantly C even when it was grown on C-even alkanes and were predominantly C odd when grown on C-odd alkanes, suggesting that the bacterium anaerobically oxidizes alkanes to fatty acids. Among these fatty acids, some 2-, 4-, and 6- methylated fatty acids were specifically found only when AK-01 was grown on alkanes, and their chain lengths always correlated with those of the alkanes. When [1,2-13C2]hexadecane or perdeuterated pentadecane was used as the growth substrate, 13C-labeled 2-Me-16:0, 4-Me-18:0, and 6-Me-20:0 fatty acids or deuterated 2-Me-15:0, 4-Me-17:0, and 6-Me-19:0 fatty acids were recovered, respectively, confirming that these monomethylated fatty acids were alkane derived. Examination of the 13C-labeled 2-, 4-, and 6- methylated fatty acids by mass spectrometry showed that each of them contained two 13C atoms, located at the methyl group and the adjacent carbon, thus indicating that the methyl group was the original terminal carbon of the [1,2-13C2]hexadecane. For perdeuterated pentadecane, the presence of three deuterium atoms, on the methyl group and its adjacent carbon, in each of the deuterated 2-, 4-, and 6-methylated fatty acids further supported the hypothesis that the methyl group was the terminal carbon of the alkane. Thus, exogenous carbon appears to be initially added to an alkane subterminally at the C-2 position such that the original terminal carbon of the alkane becomes a methyl group on the subsequently formed fatty acid. The carbon addition reaction, however, does not appear to be a direct carboxylation of inorganic bicarbonate. A pathway for anaerobic metabolism of alkanes by strain AK-01 is proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5532-5540
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology

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