Microbial energetics and stoichiometry for biodegradation of aromatic compounds involving oxygenation reactions

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Oxygenation reactions significantly alter the energy and electron flows and, consequently, the overall stoichiometry for the microbial utilization of aromatic compounds. Oxygenation reactions do not yield a net release of electrons, but require an input of electrons to reduce oxygen molecules. The biodegradation pathway of phenanthrene as a model compound was analyzed to determine the impact of oxygenation reactions on overall stoichiometry using the half-reaction method. For individual oxygenation reactions, the half-reaction method for analyzing the electron and energy flows must be modified, because the reactions do not release electrons for synthesis or energy generation. Coupling the oxygenation reaction to subsequent reaction steps provides a net electron release for the coupled reactions. Modeling results indicate that oxygenation reactions increase the oxygen requirement and reduce the cell yield, compared to the conventional mineralization represented by hydroxylation reactions in place of oxygenations. The computed yields considering oxygenation reactions conform better to empirical yields reported in the literature than do yields computed by the hydroxylation single-step methods. The coupled-reaction model also is consistent with information about the ways in which micro-organisms that degrade aromatics accumulate intermediates, regulate degradation genes, and organize enzyme clusters.

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