Pinoresinol is a dimer of two β-β'-linked coniferyl alcohol molecules. It is both a plant defense molecule synthesized through the shikimic acid pathway and a representative of several β-β-linked dimers produced during the microbial degradation of lignin in dead plant material. Until now, little has been known about the bacterial catabolism of such dimers. Here we report the isolation of the efficient (+)-pinoresinol-mineralizing Pseudomonas sp. strain SG-MS2 and its catabolic pathway. Degradation of pinoresinol in this strain is inducible and proceeds via a novel oxidative route, which is in contrast to the previously reported reductive transformation by other bacteria. Based on enzyme assays and bacterial growth, cell suspension, and resting cell studies, we provide conclusive evidence that pinoresinol degradation in strain SG-MS2 is initiated by benzylic hydroxylation, generating a hemiketal via a quinone methide intermediate, which is then hydrated at the benzylic carbon by water. The hemiketal, which stays in equilibrium with the corresponding keto alcohol, undergoes an aryl-alkyl cleavage to generate a lactone and 2-methoxyhydroquinone. While the fate of 2-methoxyhydroquinone is not investigated further, it is assumed to be assimilated by ring cleavage. The lactone is further metabolized via two routes, namely, lactone ring cleavage and benzylic hydroxylation via a quinone methide intermediate, as described above. The resulting hemiketal again exists in equilibrium with a keto alcohol. Our evidence suggests that both routes of lactone metabolism lead to vanillin and vanillic acid, which we show can then be mineralized by strain SG-MS2.IMPORTANCE The oxidative catabolism of (+)-pinoresinol degradation elucidated here is fundamentally different from the reductive cometabolism reported for two previously characterized bacteria. Our findings open up new opportunities to use lignin for the biosynthesis of vanillin, a key flavoring agent in foods, beverages, and pharmaceuticals, as well as various new lactones. Our work also has implications for the study of new pinoresinol metabolites in human health. The enterodiol and enterolactone produced through reductive transformation of pinoresinol by gut microbes have already been associated with decreased risks of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The metabolites from oxidative metabolism we find here also deserve attention in this respect.
Keywords: Pseudomonas; SG-MS2; degradation; lignan; lignin; metabolites; mineralization; pathway; pinoresinol.
Copyright © 2018 American Society for Microbiology.