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(Per)Chlorate-Reducing Bacteria Can Utilize Aerobic and Anaerobic Pathways of Aromatic Degradation with (Per)Chlorate as an Electron Acceptor



The pathways involved in aromatic compound oxidation under perchlorate and chlorate [collectively known as (per)chlorate]-reducing conditions are poorly understood. Previous studies suggest that these are oxygenase-dependent pathways involving O2 biogenically produced during (per)chlorate respiration. Recently, we described Sedimenticola selenatireducens CUZ and Dechloromarinus chlorophilus NSS, which oxidized phenylacetate and benzoate, two key intermediates in aromatic compound catabolism, coupled to the reduction of perchlorate or chlorate, respectively, and nitrate. While strain CUZ also oxidized benzoate and phenylacetate with oxygen as an electron acceptor, strain NSS oxidized only the latter, even at a very low oxygen concentration (1%, vol/vol). Strains CUZ and NSS contain similar genes for both the anaerobic and aerobic-hybrid pathways of benzoate and phenylacetate degradation; however, the key genes (paaABCD) encoding the epoxidase of the aerobic-hybrid phenylacetate pathway were not found in either genome. By using transcriptomics and proteomics, as well as by monitoring metabolic intermediates, we investigated the utilization of the anaerobic and aerobic-hybrid pathways on different electron acceptors. For strain CUZ, the results indicated utilization of the anaerobic pathways with perchlorate and nitrate as electron acceptors and of the aerobic-hybrid pathways in the presence of oxygen. In contrast, proteomic results suggest that strain NSS may use a combination of the anaerobic and aerobic-hybrid pathways when growing on phenylacetate with chlorate. Though microbial (per)chlorate reduction produces molecular oxygen through the dismutation of chlorite (ClO2(-)), this study demonstrates that anaerobic pathways for the degradation of aromatics can still be utilized by these novel organisms.


S. selenatireducens CUZ and D. chlorophilus NSS are (per)chlorate- and chlorate-reducing bacteria, respectively, whose genomes encode both anaerobic and aerobic-hybrid pathways for the degradation of phenylacetate and benzoate. Previous studies have shown that (per)chlorate-reducing bacteria and chlorate-reducing bacteria (CRB) can use aerobic pathways to oxidize aromatic compounds in otherwise anoxic environments by capturing the oxygen produced from chlorite dismutation. In contrast, we demonstrate that S. selenatireducens CUZ is the first perchlorate reducer known to utilize anaerobic aromatic degradation pathways with perchlorate as an electron acceptor and that it does so in preference over the aerobic-hybrid pathways, regardless of any oxygen produced from chlorite dismutation. D. chlorophilus NSS, on the other hand, may be carrying out anaerobic and aerobic-hybrid processes simultaneously. Concurrent use of anaerobic and aerobic pathways has not been previously reported for other CRB or any microorganisms that encode similar pathways of phenylacetate or benzoate degradation and may be advantageous in low-oxygen environments.

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