Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. George Pierce - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. E. Gilbert

Third Advisor

Dr. Sidney Crow Jr.


Rhodococcus is an important industrial organism that possesses diverse metabolic capabilities, it also has a unique cell envelope, composed of an outer layer of mycolic acids and glycolipids (free or bound lipids generally linked to the sugar trehalose). Rhodococcus is able to transform nitriles to the corresponding amide by the enzyme Nitrile Hydratase (NHase), therefore rhodococcal cells can be utilized as biocatalysts in the detoxification of nitrile waste water or in the production of industrially important amides such as acrylamide. However, the NHase within the native cells must be stable with high activity. This research examined how NHase activity and stability can be increased in native cells by changing growth media composition, the impact on the rhodococcal cell envelope was also studied. Growth media composition was altered by supplementing different sugars such as fructose, maltose or maltodextrin to replace glucose in rich solid media containing cobalt and urea for induction of NHase. The supplementation of maltose or maltodextrin resulted in significantly higher NHase activities and greater NHase stability at 55„aC. The supplementation of these different sugars was shown to alter cellular and lipid bound trehalose levels, a sugar known to stabilize proteins and a component of the rhodococcal cell envelope. Cells that had higher levels of cellular trehalose had significantly greater NHase stability at 55„aC. The effect of the different sugar supplements and inducers of NHase, such as cobalt, on cell envelope components such as mycolic acids and glycolipids were examined by High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC). The results showed that changes in mycolic acids and glycolipids occurred when the cells were grown in the presence of different sugar supplements and when the cells were induced for NHase. Susceptibility of Rhodococcus sp DAP 96253 to different antibiotics was examined to indicate if changes were occurring in the cell envelope. Differences in antibiotic susceptibility were observed when the cells were grown on media with different sugar supplements and when the cells were induced for NHase. In the presence of cobalt Rhodococcus sp DAP 96253 showed a significant increase in sensitivity to antibiotics. Changes in growth media composition influences the cell envelope of Rhodococcus sp DAP 96253 and also affects NHase activity and stability. Therefore, achieving increased enzyme activity and stability is not entirely dependent on the actual enzyme, but is related to other aspects of the cell, such as the cell envelope and metabolites of the cell.


Included in

Biology Commons