The gluthathione S-transferase gene of the atrazine-degrading bacterium Ochrobactrum anthropi (OaGST) encodes a single-subunit polypeptide of 201 amino acid residues (Favaloro et al. 1998, Biochem. J. 335, 573-579). RNA blot analysis showed that the gene is transcribed into an mRNA of about 800 nucleotides, indicating a monocistronic transcription of the OaGST gene. The modulation of OaGST in this bacterium, in the presence of different stimulants, was investigated. The level of expression of OaGST was detected both by measuring the mRNA level and by immunoblotting experiments. OaGST is a constitutive enzyme which is also inducible by several stimulants. In fact, atrazine caused an increase in the expression of OaGST even at concentrations which had no effect on growth rates of the bacteria. Moreover, the presence of other aromatic substrates of this bacterium, such as phenol and chlorophenols, leads to a marked enhancement in OaGST expression. In this case, the expression of OaGST was related to growth inhibition and membrane damage caused by these hydrophobic compounds, and to the adaptive responses of the cell membranes. On the other hand, toluene and xylene, two aromatic compounds not degradable by this bacterium, did not induce the OaGST expression. The same was observed for other stress conditions such as low pH, heat shock, hydrogen peroxide, osmotic stress, starvation, the presence of aliphatic alcohols or heavy metals. These results suggest a co-regulation of the OaGST gene by the catabolic pathways of phenols and chlorophenols in this bacterium. Therefore, OaGST could function as a detoxifying agent within the catabolism of these xenobiotics.

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