Thermophilic bacteria Bacillus subtilis WU-S2B and Mycobacterium phlei WU-F1 desulfurize dibenzothiophene (DBT) and alkylated DBTs through specific cleavage of the carbon-sulfur bonds over a temperature range up to 52°C. In order to identify and functionally analyze the DBT-desulfurization genes, the gene cluster containing bdsA, bdsB, and bdsC was cloned from B. subtilis WU-S2B. The nucleotide and amino acid sequences of bdsABC show homologies to those of the other known DBT-desulfurization genes and enzymes; e.g. a nucleotide sequence homo logy of 61.0% to dszABC of the mesophilic bacterium Rhodococcus sp. IGTS8 and 57.8% to tdsABC of the thermophilic bacterium Paenibacillus sp. A11-2. Deletion and subcloning analysis of bdsABC revealed that the gene products of bdsC, bdsA and bdsB oxidized DBT to DBT sulfone (DBTO2), converted DBTO2 to 2′-hydroxybiphenyl-2-sulfinate (HBPSi), and desulfurized HBPSi to 2-hydroxybiphenyl (2-HBP), respectively. Resting cells of a recombinant Escherichia coli JM109 harboring bdsABC converted DBT to 2-HBP over a temperature range of 30-52°C, indicating that the gene products of bdsABC were functional in the recombinant. The activities of DBT degradation at 50°C and DBT desulfurization (2-HBP production) at 40°C in resting cells of the recombinant were approximately five times and twice, respectively, as high as those in B. subtilis WU-S2B. The recombinant E. coli cells also degraded alkylated DBTs, such as 2,8-dimethylDBT and 4,6-dimethylDBT. The nucleotide sequences of B. subtilis WU-S2B bdsABC and the corresponding genes from M. phlei WU-F1 were found to be completely identical to each other although the strains are genetically different.
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