Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 17, pp 16816–16824 | Cite as

Characterization of toluene metabolism by methanotroph and its effect on methane oxidation

  • Ruo He
  • Yao Su
  • Ruo-Chan Ma
  • Shulin Zhuang
Research Article


Methanotrophs not only oxidize CH4, but also can oxidize a relatively broad range of other substrates, including trichloroethylene, alkanes, alkenes, and aromatic compounds. In this study, Methylosinus sporium was used as a model organism to characterize toluene metabolism by methanotrophs. Reverse transcription quantitative PCR analysis showed that toluene enhanced the mmoX expression of M. sporium. When the toluene concentration was below 2000 mg m−3, the kinetics of toluene metabolism by M. sporium conformed to the Michaelis-Menten equation (Vmax = 0.238 g gdry weight−1 h−1, K m  = 545.2 mg m−3). The use of a solid-phase extraction technique followed by a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis and molecular docking calculation showed that toluene was likely to primarily bind the di-iron center structural region of soluble methane monooxygenase (sMMO) hydroxylase and then be oxidized to o-cresol. Although M. sporium oxidized toluene, it did not incorporate toluene into its biomass. The coexistence of toluene and CH4 could influence CH4 oxidation, the growth of methanotrophs, and the distribution of CH4-derived carbon, which were related to the ratio of the toluene concentration to biomass. These results would be helpful to understand the metabolism of CH4 and non-methane volatile organic compounds in the environment.


Methanotroph Methane monooxygenase Toluene Kinetics Methane-derived carbon 


Funding information

This work was financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China with Grant Nos. 41671245 and 41371012, Zhejiang Province Natural Science Foundation for Distinguished Young Scholars (LR13E080002).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental EngineeringZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Institute of Environment, ResourceSoil and Fertilizer, Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural SciencesHangzhouChina
  3. 3.Institute of Environmental Science, College of Environmental and Resource SciencesZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

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