Tetralin (1,2,3,4-tetrahydonaphthalene) is a recalcitrant compound that consists of an aromatic and an alicyclic ring. It is found in crude oils, produced industrially from naphthalene or anthracene, and widely used as an organic solvent. Its toxicity is due to the alteration of biological membranes by its hydrophobic character and to the formation of toxic hydroperoxides. Two unrelated bacteria, Sphingopyxis granuli
strain TFA and Rhodococcus
sp. strain TFB were isolated from the same niche as able to grow on tetralin as the sole source of carbon and energy. In this review, we provide an overview of current knowledge on tetralin catabolism at biochemical, genetic and regulatory levels in both strains. Although they share the same biodegradation strategy and enzymatic activities, no evidences of horizontal gene transfer between both bacteria have been found. Moreover, the regulatory elements that control the expression of the gene clusters are completely different in each strain. A special consideration is given to the complex regulation discovered in TFA since three regulatory systems, one of them involving an unprecedented communication between the catabolic pathway and the regulatory elements, act together at transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels to optimize tetralin biodegradation gene expression to the environmental conditions.
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