Background: Lignin is a recalcitrant aromatic polymer that is a potential feedstock for renewable fuel and chemical production. Rhodococcus opacus PD630 is a promising strain for the biological upgrading of lignin due to its ability to tolerate and utilize lignin-derived aromatic compounds. To enhance its aromatic tolerance, we recently applied adaptive evolution using phenol as a sole carbon source and characterized a phenol-adapted R. opacus strain (evol40) and the wild-type (WT) strain by whole genome and RNA sequencing. While this effort increased our understanding of the aromatic tolerance, the tolerance mechanisms were not completely elucidated. Results: We hypothesize that the composition of lipids plays an important role in phenol tolerance. To test this hypothesis, we applied high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis to lipid samples obtained from the WT and evol40 strains grown in 1 g/L glucose (glucose), 0.75 g/L phenol (low phenol), or 1.5 g/L phenol (high phenol, evol40 only) as a sole carbon source. This analysis identified > 100 lipid species of mycolic acids, phosphatidylethanolamines (PEs), phosphatidylinositols (PIs), and triacylglycerols. In both strains, mycolic acids had fewer double bond numbers in phenol conditions than the glucose condition, and evol40 had significantly shorter mycolic acid chain lengths than the WT strain in phenol conditions. These results indicate that phenol adaptation affected mycolic acid membrane composition. In addition, the percentage of unsaturated phospholipids decreased for both strains in phenol conditions compared to the glucose condition. Moreover, the PI content increased for both strains in the low phenol condition compared to the glucose condition, and the PI content increased further for evol40 in the high phenol condition relative to the low phenol condition. Conclusions: This work represents the first comprehensive lipidomic study on the membrane of R. opacus grown using phenol as a sole carbon source. Our results suggest that the alteration of the mycolic acid and phospholipid membrane composition may be a strategy of R. opacus for phenol tolerance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number339
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 28 2018


  • Mass spectrometry
  • Mycolic acid
  • Phenol
  • Phospholipid
  • Rhodococcus opacus
  • Triacylglycerol


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