Vinyl acetate is subject to microbial degradation in the environment and by pure cultures. It was hydrolyzed by samples of soil, sludge, and sewage at rates of up to 6.38 and 1 mmol/h per g (dry weight) under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, respectively. Four yeasts and thirteen bacteria that feed aerobically on vinyl acetate were isolated. The pathway of vinyl acetate degradation was studied in bacterium V2. Vinyl acetate was degraded to acetate as follows: vinyl acetate + NAD(P)+----2 acetate + NAD(P)H + H+. The acetate was then converted to acetyl coenzyme A and oxidized through the tricarboxylic acid cycle and the glyoxylate bypass. The key enzyme of the pathway is vinyl acetate esterase, which hydrolyzed the ester to acetate and vinyl alcohol. The latter isomerized spontaneously to acetaldehyde and was then converted to acetate. The acetaldehyde was disproportionated into ethanol and acetate. The enzymes involved in the metabolism of vinyl acetate were studied in extracts. Vinyl acetate esterase (Km = 6.13 mM) was also active with indoxyl acetate (Km = 0.98 mM), providing the basis for a convenient spectrophotometric test. Substrates of aldehyde dehydrogenase were formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, propionaldehyde, and butyraldehyde. The enzyme was equally active with NAD+ or NADP+. Alcohol dehydrogenase was active with ethanol (Km = 0.24 mM), 1-propanol (Km = 0.34 mM), and 1-butanol (Km = 0.16 mM) and was linked to NAD+. The molecular sizes of aldehyde dehydrogenase and alcohol dehydrogenase were 145 and 215 kilodaltons, respectively
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