Anaerobic toluene catabolism of Thauera aromatica: the bbs operon codes for enzymes of beta oxidation of the intermediate benzylsuccinate

J Bacteriol. 2000 Jan;182(2):272-7. doi: 10.1128/JB.182.2.272-277.2000.


The pathway of anaerobic toluene oxidation to benzoyl coenzyme A (benzoyl-CoA) consists of an initial reaction catalyzed by benzylsuccinate synthase, a glycyl radical enzyme adding the methyl group of toluene to the double bond of a fumarate cosubstrate, and a subsequent beta-oxidation pathway of benzylsuccinate. Benzylsuccinate synthase has been studied in some detail, whereas the enzymes participating in beta oxidation of benzylsuccinate are unknown. We have investigated these enzymes by analyzing substrate-induced proteins in toluene-grown cells. Toluene-induced proteins were identified and N-terminally sequenced. Nine of these proteins are encoded by an 8.5-kb operon consisting of bbs (beta-oxidation of benzylsuccinate) genes whose products are apparently involved in the beta-oxidation pathway of benzylsuccinate. Two of the genes, bbsE and bbsF, code for the subunits of a succinyl-CoA:benzylsuccinate CoA-transferase whose activity was previously detected in toluene-grown Thauera aromatica. The bbsG gene codes for a specific benzylsuccinyl-CoA dehydrogenase, as confirmed by overexpression of the gene in Escherichia coli and detection of enzyme activity. The further enzymes of the pathway are probably encoded by bbsH (enoyl-CoA hydratase), bbsCD (3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase), and bbsB (3-oxoacyl-CoA thiolase). The operon contains two additional genes, bbsA and bbsI, for which no obvious function could be derived. The bbs operon is expressed only in toluene-grown cells and is regulated at the transcriptional level. Promoter mapping revealed a transcription start site upstream of the bbsA gene. This represents the first known promoter site in Thauera spp.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetyl-CoA C-Acyltransferase / genetics
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Bacterial Proteins*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Enoyl-CoA Hydratase / genetics
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Operon*
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics*
  • Succinates / metabolism*
  • Thauera / genetics*
  • Thauera / metabolism*
  • Toluene / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Succinates
  • benzylsuccinate
  • Toluene
  • Oxidoreductases
  • BbsG protein, Thauera aromatica
  • Acetyl-CoA C-Acyltransferase
  • Enoyl-CoA Hydratase