1. The metabolic pathways of aromatic-ring fission were examined in a range of fungal genera that utilize several compounds related to lignin. 2. Most of the genera, after growth on p-hydroxybenzoate, protocatechuate or compounds that are degraded to the latter (e.g. caffeate, ferulate or vanillate), rapidly oxidized these compounds, but not catechol. 3. Such genera possessed a protocatechuate 3,4-oxygenase and accumulated β-carboxymuconate as the product of protocatechuate oxidation. This enzyme had a high pH optimum in most organisms; the Rhodotorula enzyme was competitively inhibited by catechol. 4. β-Carboxymuconate was converted by all competent fungi into β-carboxymuconolactone, which was isolated and characterized. None of the fungi produced or utilized at significant rates the corresponding bacterial intermediate γ-carboxymuconolactone. 5. The lactonizing enzymes of Rhodotorula and Neurospora crassa had a pH optimum near 5·5 and approximate molecular weights of 19000 and 190000 respectively. 6. The fungi did not degrade the isomeric (+)-muconolactone, γ-carboxymethylenebutanolide or β-oxoadipate enol lactone at significant rates, and thus differ radically from bacteria, where β-oxoadipate enol lactone is the precursor of β-oxoadipate in all strains examined. 7. The end product of β-carboxymuconolactone metabolism by extracts was β-oxoadipate. 8. Evidence for a coenzyme A derivative of β-oxoadipate was found during further metabolism of this keto acid. 9. A few anomalous fungi, after growth on p-hydroxybenzoate, had no protocatechuate 3,4-oxygenase, but possessed all the enzymes of the catechol pathway. Catechol was detected in the growth medium in one instance. 10. A strain of Penicillium sp. formed pyruvate but no β-oxoadipate from protocatechuate, suggesting the existence also of a ‘meta’ type of ring cleavage among fungi.

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