Research Articles

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp 47-56

First online:

Nitrate reductases inEscherichia coli

  • Violaine BonnefoyAffiliated withLaboratoire de Chimie Bactérienne, CNRS
  • , John A. DemossAffiliated withLaboratoire de Chimie Bactérienne, CNRS

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Escherichia coli expresses two different membrane-bound respiratory nitrate reductases, nitrate reductase A (NRA) and nitrate reductase Z (NRZ). In this review, we compare the genetic control, biochemical properties and regulation of these two closely related enzyme systems. The two enzymes are encoded by distinct operons located within two different loci on theE. coli chromosome. ThenarGHJI operon, encoding nitrate reductaseA, is located in thechlC locus at 27 minutes, along with several functionally related genes:narK, encoding a nitrate/nitrite antiporter, and thenarXL operon, encoding a nitrate-activated, two component regulatory system. ThenarZYWV operon, encoding nitrate reductase Z, is located in thechlZ locus located at 32.5 minutes, a region which includes anarK homologue,narU, but no apparent homologue to thenarXL operon. The two membrane-bound enzymes have similar structures and biochemical properties and are capable of reducing nitrate using normal physiological substrates. The homology of the amino acid sequences of the peptides encoded by the two operons is extremely high but the intergenic regions share no related sequences. The expression of both thenarGHJI operon and thenarK gene are positively regulated by two transacting factors Fnr and NarL-Phosphate, activated respectively by anaerobiosis and nitrate, while thenarZYWV operon and thenarU gene are constitutively expressed. Nitrate reductase A, which accounts for 98% of the nitrate reductase activity when fully induced, is clearly the major respiratory nitrate reductase inE. coli while the physiological role of the constitutively expressed nitrate reductase Z remains to be defined.

Key words

Anaerobiosis Escherichia coli Fnr narL nitrate nitrate reductase