Epoxy Coenzyme A Thioester pathways for degradation of aromatic compounds

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Aug;78(15):5043-51. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00633-12. Epub 2012 May 11.


Aromatic compounds (biogenic and anthropogenic) are abundant in the biosphere. Some of them are well-known environmental pollutants. Although the aromatic nucleus is relatively recalcitrant, microorganisms have developed various catabolic routes that enable complete biodegradation of aromatic compounds. The adopted degradation pathways depend on the availability of oxygen. Under oxic conditions, microorganisms utilize oxygen as a cosubstrate to activate and cleave the aromatic ring. In contrast, under anoxic conditions, the aromatic compounds are transformed to coenzyme A (CoA) thioesters followed by energy-consuming reduction of the ring. Eventually, the dearomatized ring is opened via a hydrolytic mechanism. Recently, novel catabolic pathways for the aerobic degradation of aromatic compounds were elucidated that differ significantly from the established catabolic routes. The new pathways were investigated in detail for the aerobic bacterial degradation of benzoate and phenylacetate. In both cases, the pathway is initiated by transforming the substrate to a CoA thioester and all the intermediates are bound by CoA. The subsequent reactions involve epoxidation of the aromatic ring followed by hydrolytic ring cleavage. Here we discuss the novel pathways, with a particular focus on their unique features and occurrence as well as ecological significance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biodegradation, Environmental*
  • Coenzyme A / metabolism*
  • Epoxy Compounds / metabolism*
  • Esters / metabolism*
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic / metabolism*
  • Hydrolysis
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / physiology*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Oxygen / metabolism


  • Epoxy Compounds
  • Esters
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic
  • Oxygen
  • Coenzyme A