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Alternative Naphthalene Metabolic Pathway Includes Formation of ortho-Phthalic Acid and Cinnamic Acid Derivatives in the Rhodococcus opacus Strain 3D

T. O. Anokhina1, T. Z. Esikova1, A. B. Gafarov1, V. N. Polivtseva1, B. P. Baskunov1, and I. P. Solyanikova1,a*

1Pushchino Scientific Center for Biological Research, G. K. Skryabin Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms, Russian Academy of Sciences, 142290 Pushchino, Moscow Region, Russia

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received November 1, 2019; Revised December 6, 2019; Accepted December 6, 2019
Naphthalene, as a component of crude oil, is a common environmental pollutant. Biochemical and genetic aspects of naphthalene catabolism have been examined in most detail in the bacteria of Pseudomonas genus. In pseudomonads, the key intermediate in naphthalene degradation is salicylate. In this study, we investigated the ability of Rhodococcus opacus strain 3D to utilize naphthalene as a sole carbon and energy source. The characteristic feature of this strain is the inability to grow in the mineral medium supplemented with salicylate (typical intermediate of naphthalene degradation in Gram-negative bacteria). The absence of salicylate hydroxylase activity and salicylate accumulation in the course of R. opacus 3D cultivation in the mineral medium supplemented with naphthalene indicated existence of an alternative pathway of naphthalene oxidation. At the same time, R. opacus 3D was able to use monoaromatic compounds (salts of gentisic, ortho-phthalic, and 2-hydroxycinnamic acids and coumarin) as growth substrates. Based on the analysis of enzymatic activities, identification of the reaction intermediates, genetic determinants, and growth substrates, we concluded that R. opacus 3D carries out naphthalene degradation through an alternative pathway via formation of ortho-phthalic acid, which is untypical for pseudomonads. Using mass spectrometry, we showed for the first time that salicylic acid associate formed in trace amounts in the process of naphthalene degradation is not further metabolized and accumulated in the growth medium in a form of a dimer.
KEY WORDS: Rhodococcus opacus, naphthalene, salicylic acid, ortho-phthalic acid, 2-hydroxycinnamic acid, biodegradation genes, enzymatic activity

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297920030116