Klebsiella pneumoniae PRL-R3 has inducible catabolic pathways for the degradation of ribitol and D-arabitol but cannot utilize xylitol as a growth substrate. A mutation in the rbtB regulatory gene of the ribitol operon permits the constitutive synthesis of the ribitol catabolic enzymes and allows growth on xylitol. The evolved xylitol catabolic pathway consists of an induced D-arabitol permease system that also transports xylitol, a constitutively synthesized ribitol dehydrogenase that oxidizes xylitol at the C-2 position to produce D-xylulose, and an induced D-xylulokinase from either the D-arabitol or D-xylose catabolic pathway. To investigate the potential of K. pneumoniae to evolve a different xylitol catabolic pathway, strains were constructed which were unable to synthesize ribitol dehydrogenase or either type of D-xylulokinase but constitutively synthesized the D-arabitol permease system. These strains had an inducible L-xylulokinase; therefore, the evolution of an enzyme which oxidized xylitol at the C-4 position to L-xylulose would establish a new xylitol catabolic pathway. Four independent xylitol-utilizing mutants were isolated, each of which had evolved a xylitol-4-dehydrogenase activity. The four dehydrogenases appeared to be identical because they comigrated during nondenaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. This novel xylitol dehydrogenase was constitutively synthesized, whereas L-xylulokinase remained inducible. Transductional analysis showed that the evolved dehydrogenase was not an altered ribitol or D-arabitol dehydrogenase and that the evolved dehydrogenase structural gene was not linked to the pentitol gene cluster. This evolved dehydrogenase had the highest activity with xylitol as a substrate, a Km for xylitol of 1.4 M, and a molecular weight of 43,000
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