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Anaerobic Metabolism of Aromatic Compounds


  • Dedicated to Lars Ljungdahl.

Address for correspondence: Georg Fuchs, Microbiology, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, Schaenzelstr. 1, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany. Phone: +49 761 203 2649; fax: +49 761 203 2626.


Aromatic compounds comprise a wide variety of natural and synthetic compounds that can serve as substrates for bacterial growth. So far, four types of aromatic metabolism are known. (1) The aerobic aromatic metabolism is characterized by the extensive use of molecular oxygen as cosubstrate for oxygenases that introduce hydroxyl groups and cleave the aromatic ring. (2) In the presence of oxygen, facultative aerobes use another so-called hybrid type of aerobic metabolism of benzoate, phenylacetate, and anthranilate (2-aminobenzoate). These pathways use coenzyme A thioesters of the substrates and do not require oxygen for ring cleavage; rather they use an oxygenase/reductase to dearomatize the ring. (3) In the absence of oxygen, facultative aerobes and phototrophs use a reductive aromatic metabolism. Reduction of the aromatic ring of benzoyl-coenzyme A is catalyzed by benzoyl-coenzyme A reductase. This Birch-like reduction is driven by the hydrolysis of 2 ATP molecules. (4) A completely different, still little characterized benzoyl-coenzyme A reductase operates in strict anaerobes, which cannot afford the costly ATP-dependent ring reduction.