Encystment and alkylresorcinol production by Azotobacter vinelandii strains impaired in poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate synthesis

Arch Microbiol. 2003 Jun;179(6):437-43. doi: 10.1007/s00203-003-0553-4. Epub 2003 May 6.


The lipids poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) and alkylresorcinols are the major metabolic products of Azotobacter vinelandii cysts. Cysts are formed in less than 0.01% of late stationary phase cells grown on sucrose. Culturing vegetative cells in n-butanol or beta-hydroxybutyrate induces encystment. After induction of encystment, PHB rapidly accumulates in large granules. Then, the cells begin the synthesis of alkylresorcinols that replace the phospholipids in the membranes and are components of the exine, the outer layer of the cyst envelope. Vegetative cells do not synthesize alkylresorcinols. We report here the effect of mutations in the phbBAC operon, coding for the enzymes of the PHB biosynthetic pathway, on the synthesis of alkylresorcinols and cyst formation. The phb mutations did not impair the capacity to form mature cysts. However, the cysts formed by these strains posses a thicker exine layer and a higher content of alkylresorcinols than the cysts formed by the wild-type strain. A blockage of PHB synthesis caused by phb mutations resulted in the synthesis of alkylresorcinols and encystment even under non-inducing conditions. We propose that, as a consequence of the blockage in the PHB biosynthetic pathway, the acetyl-CoA and reducing power pools are increased causing the shift to lipid metabolism required for the synthesis of alkylresorcinols and cyst formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Azotobacter vinelandii / cytology
  • Azotobacter vinelandii / growth & development*
  • Azotobacter vinelandii / metabolism*
  • Hydroxybutyrates / analysis
  • Hydroxybutyrates / metabolism*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Polyesters / analysis
  • Polyesters / metabolism*
  • Resorcinols / analysis
  • Resorcinols / isolation & purification
  • Resorcinols / metabolism*
  • Spores, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Spores, Bacterial / ultrastructure


  • Hydroxybutyrates
  • Polyesters
  • Resorcinols
  • poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate