Obligately aerobic Gram-negative rod-shaped bacteria isolated from soil, sewage and river water grew using ethan-1,2-diol (MEG), 2-(2′-hydroxyethoxy)ethanol (DEG) or poly(ethylene glycol)s of up to 1500 molecular weight as sole carbon and energy source, though no single strain used the whole range. Only organisms that grew using MEG could grow on glycine or glycollate. An strain (S8) degraded DEG and short poly(ethylene glycol)s by non-oxidative removal of ethylene oxide units as acetaldehyde, using a membrane-bound oxygen-sensitive enzyme of a novel type - DEG lyase - and leaving an unusable MEG residue. The C units could be used for energy generation by the tricarboxylic acid cycle and for anabolic and anaplerotic functions via the glyoxylate cycle, key enzymes of which were induced by growth of the bacteria on DEG or short poly(ethylene glycol)s.


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