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The term catabolon was introduced to define a complex functional unit integrated by different catabolic pathways, which are, or could be, co-ordinately regulated, and that catalyses the transformation of structurally related compounds into a common catabolite. The phenylacetyl-CoA catabolon encompasses all the routes involved in the transformation of styrene, 2-phenylethylamine, trans-styrylacetic acid, phenylacetaldehyde, phenylacetic acid, phenylacetyl amides, phenylacetyl esters and n-phenylalkanoic acids containing an even number of carbon atoms, into phenylacetyl-CoA. This common intermediate is subsequently catabolized through a route of convergence, the phenylacetyl-CoA catabolon core, into general metabolites. The genetic organization of this central route, the biochemical significance of the whole functional unit and its broad biotechnological applications are discussed.