Biphenyl and ethylbenzene dioxygenases of Rhodococcus jostii RHA1 transform PBDEs. Academic Article uri icon


  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of flame retardants that have been widely used in consumer products, but that are problematic because of their environmental persistence and endocrine-disrupting properties. To date, very little is known about PBDE degradation by aerobic microorganisms and the enzymes involved in PBDE transformation. Resting cells of the polychlorinated biphenyl-degrading actinomycete, Rhodococcus jostii RHA1, depleted nine mono- through penta-BDEs in separate assays. Extensive depletion of PBDEs occurred with cells grown on biphenyl, ethylbenzene, propane, or styrene, whereas very limited depletion occurred with cells grown on pyruvate or benzoate. In RHA1, expression of bphAa encoding biphenyl dioxygenase (BPDO) and etbAa1 and etbAc encoding ethylbenzene dioxygenase (EBDO) was induced 30- to 3,000-fold during growth on the substrates that supported PBDE depletion. The BPDO and EBDO enzymes had gene expression profiles that matched the PBDE-depletion profiles exhibited by RHA1 grown on different substrates. Using the non-PBDE-degrading bacterium Rhodococcus erythropolis as a host, two recombinant strains were developed by inserting the eth and bph genes of RHA1, respectively. The resultant EBDO extensively depleted mono- through penta-BDEs, while the BPDO depleted only mono-, di-, and one tetra-BDE. A dihydroxylated-BDE was detected as the primary metabolite of 4-bromodiphenyl ether in both recombinant strains. These results indicate that although both dioxygenases are capable of transforming PBDEs, EBDO more potently transforms the highly brominated congeners. The availability of substrates or inducing compounds can markedly affect total PBDE removal as well as patterns of removal of individual congeners.

published proceedings

  • Biotechnol Bioeng

author list (cited authors)

  • Robrock, K. R., Mohn, W. W., Eltis, L. D., & Alvarez-Cohen, L.

citation count

  • 33

complete list of authors

  • Robrock, Kristin R||Mohn, William W||Eltis, Lindsay D||Alvarez-Cohen, Lisa

publication date

  • February 2011