Discovery of a bacterial gene cluster for catabolism of the plant hormone indole 3-acetic acid


  • Editor: Philippe Lemanceau

Correspondence: Johan H.J. Leveau, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Boterhoeksestraat 48, 6666 GA Heteren, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 26 479 1306; fax: +31 26 472 3227; e-mail


The isolation and annotation of an 8994-bp DNA fragment from Pseudomonas putida 1290, which conferred upon P. putida KT2440 the ability to utilize the plant hormone indole 3-acetic acid (IAA) as a sole source of carbon and energy, is described. This iac locus (for indole 3-acetic acid catabolism) was identified through analysis of a plasposon mutant of P. putida 1290 that was no longer able to grow on IAA or indole 3-acetaldehyde and was unable to protect radish roots from stunting by exogenously added IAA. The iac locus consisted of 10 genes with coding similarity to enzymes acting on indole or amidated aromatics and to proteins with regulatory or unknown function. Highly similar iac gene clusters were identified in the genomes of 22 bacterial species. Five of these, i.e. P. putida GB-1, Marinomonas sp. MWYL1, Burkholderia sp. 383, Sphingomonas wittichii RW1 and Rhodococcus sp. RHA1, were tested to confirm that bacteria with IAA-degrading ability have representatives in the Alpha-, Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria and in the Actinobacteria. In P. putida 1290, cat and pca genes were found to be essential to IAA-degradation, suggesting that IAA is channeled via catechol into the β-ketoadipate pathway. Also contributing to the IAA degrading phenotype were genes involved in tricarboxylate cycling, gluconeogenesis, and carbon/nitrogen sensing.