Sphingomonas wittichii RW1 is a bacterium isolated for its ability to degrade the xenobiotic compounds dibenzodioxin and dibenzofuran (DBF). A number of genes involved in DBF degradation have been previously characterized, such as the dxn cluster, dbfB, and the electron transfer components fdx1, fdx3, and redA2. Here we use a combination of whole genome transcriptome analysis and transposon library screening to characterize RW1 catabolic and other genes implicated in the reaction to or degradation of DBF. To detect differentially expressed genes upon exposure to DBF, we applied three different growth exposure experiments, using either short DBF exposures to actively growing cells or growing them with DBF as sole carbon and energy source. Genome-wide gene expression was examined using a custom-made microarray. In addition, proportional abundance determination of transposon insertions in RW1 libraries grown on salicylate or DBF by ultra-high throughput sequencing was used to infer genes whose interruption caused a fitness loss for growth on DBF. Expression patterns showed that batch and chemostat growth conditions, and short or long exposure of cells to DBF produced very different responses. Numerous other uncharacterized catabolic gene clusters putatively involved in aromatic compound metabolism increased expression in response to DBF. In addition, only very few transposon insertions completely abolished growth on DBF. Some of those (e.g., in dxnA1) were expected, whereas others (in a gene cluster for phenylacetate degradation) were not. Both transcriptomic data and transposon screening suggest operation of multiple redundant and parallel aromatic pathways, depending on DBF exposure. In addition, increased expression of other non-catabolic genes suggests that during initial exposure, S. wittichii RW1 perceives DBF as a stressor, whereas after longer exposure, the compound is recognized as a carbon source and metabolized using several pathways in parallel.
Keywords: bioremediation; microarray analysis; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; transposon screening.