Aerobic vanillate degradation and C1 compound metabolism in Bradyrhizobium japonicum

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Aug;75(15):5012-7. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00755-09. Epub 2009 Jun 5.


Bradyrhizobium japonicum, a symbiotic nitrogen-fixing soil bacterium, has multiple gene copies for aromatic degradation on the genome and is able to use low concentrations of vanillate, a methoxylated lignin monomer, as an energy source. A transcriptome analysis indicated that one set of vanA1B, pcaG1H1, and genes for C(1) compound catabolism was upregulated in B. japonicum USDA110 cells grown in vanillate (N. Ito, M. Itakura, S. Eda, K. Saeki, H. Oomori, T. Yokoyama, T. Kaneko, S. Tabata, T. Ohwada, S. Tajima, T. Uchiumi, E. Masai, M. Tsuda, H. Mitsui, and K. Minamisawa, Microbes Environ. 21:240-250, 2006). To examine the functions of these genes in vanillate degradation, we tested cell growth and substrate consumption in vanA1B, pcaG1H1, and mxaF mutants of USDA110. The vanA1B and pcaG1H1 mutants were unable to grow in minimal media containing 1 mM vanillate and protocatechuate, respectively, although wild-type USDA110 was able to grow in both media, indicating that the upregulated copies of vanA1B and pcaG1H1 are exclusively responsible for vanillate degradation. Mutating mxaF eliminated expression of gfa and flhA, which contribute to glutathione-dependent C(1) metabolism. The mxaF mutant had markedly lower cell growth in medium containing vanillate than the wild-type strain. In the presence of protocatechuate, there was no difference in cell growth between the mxaF mutant and the wild-type strain. These results suggest that the C(1) pathway genes are required for efficient vanillate catabolism. In addition, wild-type USDA110 oxidized methanol, whereas the mxaF mutant did not, suggesting that the metabolic capability of the C(1) pathway in B. japonicum extends to methanol oxidation. The mxaF mutant showed normal nodulation and N(2) fixation phenotypes with soybeans, which was not similar to symbiotic phenotypes of methylotrophic rhizobia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bradyrhizobium / metabolism*
  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Glycine max / microbiology
  • Hydroxybenzoates / metabolism
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / genetics
  • Methanol / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitrogen Fixation
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Plant Root Nodulation
  • Vanillic Acid / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Culture Media
  • Hydroxybenzoates
  • protocatechuic acid
  • Carbon
  • Vanillic Acid
  • Methanol