Aromatic compounds derived from lignin are of great interest for renewable biotechnical applications. They can serve in many industries e.g. as biochemical building blocks for bioplastics or biofuels, or as antioxidants, flavor agents or food preservatives. In nature, lignin is degraded by microorganisms, which results in the release of homocyclic aromatic compounds. Homocyclic aromatic compounds can also be linked to polysaccharides, tannins and even found freely in plant biomass. As these compounds are often toxic to microbes already at low concentrations, they need to be degraded or converted to less toxic forms. Prior to ring cleavage, the plant- and lignin-derived aromatic compounds are converted to seven central ring-fission intermediates, i.e. catechol, protocatechuic acid, hydroxyquinol, hydroquinone, gentisic acid, gallic acid and pyrogallol through complex aromatic metabolic pathways and used as energy source in the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Over the decades, bacterial aromatic metabolism has been described in great detail. However, the studies on fungal aromatic pathways are scattered over different pathways and species, complicating a comprehensive view of fungal aromatic metabolism. In this review, we depicted the similarities and differences of the reported aromatic metabolic pathways in fungi and bacteria. Although both microorganisms share the main conversion routes, many alternative pathways are observed in fungi. Understanding the microbial aromatic metabolic pathways could lead to metabolic engineering for strain improvement and promote valorization of lignin and related aromatic compounds.
- aromatic metabolism
- platform chemicals
- plant-derived homocyclic aromatic compound