Rhodococcus ruber (formerly Gordonia terrae) IFP 2001 is one of a few bacterial strains able to degrade ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE), which is a major pollutant from gasoline. This strain was found to undergo a spontaneous 14.3-kbp chromosomal deletion, which results in the loss of the ability to degrade ETBE. Sequence analysis of the region corresponding to the deletion revealed the presence of a gene cluster, ethABCD, encoding a ferredoxin reductase, a cytochrome P-450, a ferredoxin, and a 10-kDa protein of unknown function, respectively. The EthB and EthD proteins could be easily detected by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and were induced by ETBE in the wild-type strain. Upstream of ethABCD lies ethR, which codes for a putative positive transcriptional regulator of the AraC/XylS family. Transformation of the ETBE-negative mutant by a plasmid carrying the ethRABCD genes restored the ability to degrade ETBE. Complementation was abolished if the plasmid carried ethRABC only. The eth genes are located in a DNA fragment flanked by two identical direct repeats of 5.6 kbp. The ETBE-negative mutants carry a single copy of this 5.6-kbp repeat, suggesting that the 14.3-kbp chromosomal deletion resulted from a recombination between the two identical sequences. The 5.6-kbp repeat is a class II transposon carrying a TnpA transposase, a truncated form of the recombinase TnpR, and a terminal inverted repeat of 38 bp. The truncated TnpR is encoded by an IS3-interrupted tnpR gene
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