Plant-produced isoprene (2-methyl-1,3-butadiene) represents a significant portion of global volatile organic compound production, equaled only by methane. A metabolic pathway for the degradation of isoprene was first described for the Gram-positive bacterium Rhodococcus sp. AD45, and an alternative model organism has yet to be characterised. Here, we report the characterisation of a novel Gram-negative isoprene-degrading bacterium, Variovorax sp. WS11. Isoprene metabolism in this bacterium involves a plasmid-encoded iso metabolic gene cluster which differs from that found in Rhodococcus sp. AD45 in terms of organisation and regulation. Expression of iso metabolic genes is significantly upregulated by both isoprene and epoxyisoprene. The enzyme responsible for the initial oxidation of isoprene, isoprene monooxygenase, oxidises a wide range of alkene substrates in a manner which is strongly influenced by the presence of alkyl side-chains and differs from other well-characterised soluble diiron monooxygenases according to its response to alkyne inhibitors. This study presents Variovorax sp. WS11 as both a comparative and contrasting model organism for the study of isoprene metabolism in bacteria, aiding our understanding of the conservation of this biochemical pathway across diverse ecological niches.
- Isoprene-fed fermentor