Over 1.2 billion pounds of triethanolamine are produced annually in the United States. Triethanolamine is widely used as an ingredient in emulsifiers, thickeners, wetting agents, detergents, and alkalinizing agents in cosmetic products; as a chemical intermediate for anionic and nonionic surfactants and surface active agents in household cleaning agents, textiles, herbicides, pharmaceutical ointments, and other products; as a vulcanization accelerator in the manufacture of rubber; and in many other industrial applications.
The National Cancer Institute nominated triethanolamine for study because of its widespread use in cosmetics and other consumer products, its high potential for worker exposure due to its many industrial uses, and its potential for conversion to the carcinogen N-nitrosodiethanolamine.Triethanolamine is degraded by the enzyme triethanolamine lyase. A corronoid-dependent shifting of the terminal hydroxyl group to the subterminal carbon atom occurs to form an unstable intermediate that forms diethanolamine and releases acetaldehyde. It is believed that the diethanolamine formed by this reaction undergoes a similar degradation route to form ethanolamine. Ethanolamine ammonia-lyase degrades the ethanolamine to acetaldehyde and ammonia. A strictly anaerobic, gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium, strain LuTria 3, was used to degrade the triethanolamine. Acetobacterium sp. LuTria 3 was enriched and isolated with triethanolamine as sole source of energy and carbon. The new isolate differs from other species of the genus described so far by its capacity to grow with triethanolamine and its inability to utilize ethylene glycol or fructose (Frings et al., 1994).
The following is a text-format triethanolamine pathway map. An organism which can initiate the pathway is given, but other organisms may also carry out later steps. Follow the links for more information on compounds or reactions. This map is also available in graphic (10k) format.
Triethanolamine Acetobacterium sp. LuTria 3 | | | triethanolamine lyase | v [Unstable hemiaminal intermediate] | | | | v Diethanolamine + Acetaldehyde ------------+ | | | | | triethanolamine lyase | | v v Intermediary [Unstable hemiaminal intermediate] Metabolism | (KEGG) | ^ | | | | v | Ethanolamine + Acetaldehyde -------------+ | | | | v Intermediary Metabolism (KEGG)
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