Identification and characterisation of isoprene-degrading bacteria in an estuarine environment

Antonia Johnston, Andrew T. Crombie, Myriam El Khawand, Leanne Sims, Gregg M. Whited, Terry J. McGenity, J. Colin Murrell

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Approximately one-third of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted to the atmosphere consists of isoprene, originating from the terrestrial and marine biosphere, with a profound effect on atmospheric chemistry. However, isoprene provides an abundant and largely unexplored source of carbon and energy for microbes. The potential for isoprene degradation in marine and estuarine samples from the Colne Estuary, UK, was investigated using DNA-Stable Isotope Probing (DNA-SIP). Analysis at two timepoints showed the development of communities dominated by Actinobacteria including members of the genera Mycobacterium, Rhodococcus, Microbacterium and Gordonia. Representative isolates, capable of growth on isoprene as sole carbon and energy source, were obtained from marine and estuarine locations, and isoprene-degrading strains of Gordonia and Mycobacterium were characterised physiologically and their genomes were sequenced. Genes predicted to be required for isoprene metabolism, including four-component isoprene monooxygenases (IsoMO), were identified and compared with previously characterised examples. Transcriptional and activity assays of strains growing on isoprene or alternative carbon sources showed that growth on isoprene is an inducible trait requiring a specific IsoMO. This study is the first to identify active isoprene degraders in estuarine and marine environments using DNA-SIP and to characterise marine isoprene-degrading bacteria at the physiological and molecular level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3526–3537
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number9
Early online date21 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

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