The role of menaquinone in the nitrate reductase complex

Francisco R Brito, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Membrane bound, respiratory nitrate reductase in Escherichia coli is composed of three subunits, αβγ. The active complex is anchored to the membrane by membrane-integrated γ subunit and can reduce nitrate to nitrite with membrane quinones, (ubiquinone or menaquinone) as physiological electron donors. The transfer of electrons through the complex is thought to involve the sequence: membrane quinols [special characters omitted] b-type hemes (γ subunit) [special characters omitted] Fe-S centers (β subunit) [special characters omitted] molybdopterin (α subunit) [special characters omitted] nitrate. The enzyme can be assayed with the artificial electron donor reduced methyl viologen (MVH) which transfers electrons directly to the molybdopterin cofactor. These studies have focused on the possible role of protein-bound menaquinone in the structure and function of this multisubunit complex. Nitrate reductase was purified as two distinct forms; after solubilization of membrane proteins with detergents, purification rendered an αβγ complex (holoenzyme) which catalyzes nitrate reduction with MVH or the quinols analogs, menadiol and duroquinol, as electron donors. Alternatively, heat-treatment of the membranes in the absence of detergents and subsequent purification of the active enzyme produced an αβ complex, which reduces nitrate only with MVH as electron donor. The active αβ dimer was also separated from γ subunit by heat treatment of the holoenzyme. Menaquinone-9 was isolated directly from the purified αβ complex, and identified by mass spectrometry. Based on the composition of the membrane quinone pool, it was concluded that menaquinone-9 is sequestered from the membrane pool in a specifically protein-bound form. The role of the bound menaquinone in the structure-function of nitrate reductase was also investigated, along with its participation in UV-light inactivation of the enzyme. Menaquinone-depleted nitrate reductase from a menaquinone deficient mutant retained activity with all electron donors and it remained sensitive to UV inactivation. However, the MVH-nitrate reductase activity and the rate of UV inactivation of the enzyme were significantly reduced and the optical properties of the enzyme were modified by the absence of the bound menaquinone-9. Menaquinone-9 is not absolutely required for electron transfer in nitrate reductase but it appears to be specifically-bound during assembly of the complex and to enhance the transfer of electrons through the complex. The possible plasticity of the functional electron transfer pathway in nitrate reductase is discussed.

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Recommended Citation

Brito, Francisco R, "The role of menaquinone in the nitrate reductase complex" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9929370.