, Volume 221, Issue 1-2, pp 153-161

Reduction of potassium tellurite to elemental tellurium and its effect on the plasma membrane redox components of the facultative phototroph Rhodobacter capsulatus

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 Anaerobically light-grown cells of Rhodobacter capsulatus B100 are highly resistant to the toxic oxyanion tellurite (TeO3 2−; minimal inhibitory concentration, 250 μg/ml). This study examines, for the first time, some structural and biochemical features of cells and plasma membrane fragments of this facultative phototroph grown in the presence of 50μg of K2TeO3 per ml. Through the use of transmission microscopy and X-ray microanalysis we show that several “needlelike” shaped granules of elemental tellurium are accumulated into the cytosol near the intracytoplasmic membrane system. Flash-spectroscopy, oxygen consumption measurements, and difference spectra analysis indicated that membrane vesicles (chromatophores) isolated from tellurite-grown cells are able to catalyze both photosynthetic and respiratory electron transport activities, although they are characterized by a low c-type cytochrome content (mostly soluble cytochrome c 2). This feature is paralleled by a low cytochrome c oxidase activity and with an NADH-dependent respiration which is catalyzed by a pathway leading to a quinol oxidase (Qox) inhibited by high (millimolar) concentrations of cyanide (CN). Conversely, membranes from R. capsulatus B100 cells grown in the absence of tellurite are characterized by a branched respiratory chain in which the cytochrome c oxidase pathway (blocked by CN in the micromolar range) accounts for 35–40% of the total NADH-dependent oxygen consumption, while the remaining activity is catalyzed by the quinol oxidase pathway. These data have been interpreted to show that tellurite resistance of R. capsulatus B100 is characterized by the presence of a modified plasma-membrane-associated electron transport system.

Received May 2, 2002; accepted July 26, 2002; published online May 21, 2003
ID="*" Correspondence and reprints: Department of Biology, University of Bologna, Via Irnerio 42, 40126 Bologna, Italy.