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Concept: Nitrate reductase


A major challenge for the bioremediation of toxic metals is the co-occurrence of nitrate, as it can inhibit metal transformation. Geobacter metallireducens, Desulfovibrio desulfuricans, and Sulfurospirillum barnesii are three soil bacteria that can reduce chromate [Cr(VI)] and nitrate, and may be beneficial for developing bioremediation strategies. All three organisms respire through dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonia (DNRA), employing different nitrate reductases but similar nitrite reductase (Nrf). G. metallireducens reduces nitrate to nitrite via the membrane bound nitrate reductase (Nar), while S. barnesii and D. desulfuricans strain 27774 have slightly different forms of periplasmic nitrate reductase (Nap). We investigated the effect of DNRA growth in the presence of Cr(VI) in these three organisms and the ability of each to reduce Cr(VI) to Cr(III), and found that each organisms responded differently. Growth of G. metallireducens on nitrate was completely inhibited by Cr(VI). Cultures of D. desulfuricans on nitrate media was initially delayed (48 h) in the presence of Cr(VI), but ultimately reached comparable cell yields to the non-treated control. This prolonged lag phase accompanied the transformation of Cr(VI) to Cr(III). Viable G. metallireducens cells could reduce Cr(VI), whereas Cr(VI) reduction by D. desulfuricans during growth, was mediated by a filterable and heat stable extracellular metabolite. S. barnesii growth on nitrate was not affected by Cr(VI), and Cr(VI) was reduced to Cr(III). However, Cr(VI) reduction activity in S. barnesii, was detected in both the cell free spent medium and cells, indicating both extracellular and cell associated mechanisms. Taken together, these results have demonstrated that Cr(VI) affects DNRA in the three organisms differently, and that each have a unique mechanism for Cr(VI) reduction.

Concepts: Bacteria, Metabolism, Redox, Nitrogen, Bioremediation, Denitrification, Nitrate, Nitrate reductase


The salivary glands of adults concentrate nitrate from plasma into saliva where it is converted to nitrite by bacterial nitrate reductases. Nitrite can play a beneficial role in adult gastrointestinal and cardiovascular physiology. When nitrite is swallowed, some of it is converted to nitric oxide (NO) in the stomach and may then exert protective effects in the gastrointestinal tract and throughout the body. It has yet to be determined either when newborn infants acquire oral nitrate reducing bacteria or what the effects of antimicrobial therapy or premature birth may be on the bacterial processing of nitrate to nitrite. We measured nitrate and nitrite levels in the saliva of adults and both preterm and term human infants in the early weeks of life. We also measured oral bacterial reductase activity in the saliva of both infants and adults, and characterized the species of nitrate reducing bacteria present. Oral bacterial conversion of nitrate to nitrite in infants was either undetectable or markedly lower than the conversion rates of adults. No measurable reductase activity was found in infants within the first two weeks of life, despite the presence of oral nitrate reducing bacteria such as Actinomyces odontolyticus, Veillonella atypica, and Rothia mucilaginosa. We conclude that relatively little nitrite reaches the infant gastrointestinal tract due to the lack of oral bacterial nitrate reductase activity. Given the importance of the nitrate-nitrite-NO axis in adults, the lack of oral nitrate-reducing bacteria in infants may be relevant to the vulnerability of newborns to hypoxic stress and gastrointestinal tract pathologies.

Concepts: Childbirth, Infant, Digestive system, Nitrogen, Infant mortality, Newborn, Nitrate, Nitrate reductase


The cured colour of European raw fermented meats is usually achieved by nitrate-into-nitrite reduction by coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS), subsequently generating nitric oxide to form the relatively stable nitrosomyoglobin pigment. The present study aimed at comparing this classical curing procedure, based on nitrate reductase activity, with a potential alternative colour formation mechanism, based on nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity, under different acidification profiles. To this end, meat models with and without added nitrate were fermented with cultures of an acidifying strain (Lactobacillus sakei CTC 494) and either a nitrate-reducing Staphylococcuscarnosus strain or a rare NOS-positive CNS strain (Staphylococcus haemolyticus G110), or by relying on the background microbiota. Satisfactory colour was obtained in the models prepared with added nitrate and S. carnosus. In the presence of nitrate but absence of added CNS, however, cured colour was only obtained when L. sakei CTC 494 was also omitted. This was ascribed to the pH dependency of the emerging CNS background microbiota, selecting for nitrate-reducing Staphylococcusequorum strains at mild acidification conditions but for Staphylococcussaprophyticus strains with poor colour formation capability when the pH decrease was more rapid. This reliance of colour formation on the composition of the background microbiota was further explored by a side experiment, demonstrating the heterogeneity in nitrate reduction of a set of 88 CNS strains from different species. Finally, in all batches prepared with S. haemolyticus G110, colour generation failed as the strain was systematically outcompeted by the background microbiota, even when imposing milder acidification profiles. Thus, when aiming at colour formation through CNS metabolism, technological processing can severely interfere with the composition and functionality of the meat-associated CNS communities, for both nitrate reductase and NOS activities. Several major bottlenecks, among which the rareness of phenotypic NOS activity in meat-compatible CNS, need to be considered, which is seriously questioning the relevance of this pathway in fermented meats.

Concepts: Bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus, Nitrogen, Nitric oxide, Meat, Staphylococcus haemolyticus, Nitrate reductase


Methylophaga nitratireducenticrescens JAM1 is the only reported Methylophaga species capable of growing under anaerobic conditions with nitrate as electron acceptor. Its genome encodes a truncated denitrification pathway, which includes two nitrate reductases, Nar1 and Nar2; two nitric oxide reductases, Nor1 and Nor2; and one nitrous oxide reductase, Nos; but no nitrite reductase (NirK or NirS). The transcriptome of strain JAM1 cultivated with nitrate and methanol under anaerobic conditions showed the genes for these enzymes were all expressed. We investigated the importance of Nar1 and Nar2 by knocking out narG1, narG2 or both genes. Measurement of the specific growth rate and the specific nitrate reduction rate of the knockout mutants JAM1ΔnarG1 (Nar1) and JAM1ΔnarG2 (Nar2) clearly demonstrated that both Nar systems contributed to the growth of strain JAM1 under anaerobic conditions, but at different levels. The JAM1ΔnarG1 mutant exhibited an important decrease in the nitrate reduction rate that consequently impaired its growth under anaerobic conditions. In JAM1ΔnarG2, the mutation induced a 20-h lag period before nitrate reduction occurred at specific rate similar to that of strain JAM1. The disruption of narG1 did not affect the expression of narG2. However, the expression of the Nar1 system was highly downregulated in the presence of oxygen with the JAM1ΔnarG2 mutant. These results indicated that Nar1 is the major nitrate reductase in strain JAM1 but Nar2 appears to regulate the expression of Nar1.

Concepts: Oxygen, Gene, Gene expression, Bacteria, Redox, Nitrogen, Nitric oxide, Nitrate reductase


Poaceae plants release 2'-deoxymugineic acid (DMA) and related phytosiderophores to chelate iron (Fe), which often exists as insoluble Fe(III) in the rhizosphere, especially under high pH conditions. Although the molecular mechanisms behind the biosynthesis and secretion of DMA have been studied extensively, little is known about whether DMA has biological roles other than chelating Fe in vivo. Here, we demonstrated that hydroponic cultures of rice (Oryza sativa) seedlings show almost complete restoration in shoot height and soil-plant analysis development (SPAD) values after treatment with 3 to 30 μM DMA at high pH (pH 8.0), compared to untreated control seedlings at normal pH (pH 5.8). These changes were accompanied by selective accumulation of Fe over other metals. While this enhanced growth was evident under high pH conditions, DMA application also enhanced seedling growth under normal pH conditions in which Fe was fairly accessible. Microarray and qRT-PCR analyses revealed that exogenous DMA application attenuated the increased expression levels of various genes related to Fe transport and accumulation. Surprisingly, despite the preferential utilization of ammonium over nitrate as a nitrogen source by rice, DMA application also increased nitrate reductase activity and the expression of genes encoding high-affinity nitrate transporters and nitrate reductases, all of which were otherwise considerably lower under high pH conditions. These data suggest that exogenous DMA not only plays an important role in facilitating the uptake of environmental Fe, but also orchestrates Fe and nitrate assimilation for optimal growth under high pH conditions. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Gene expression, Acid, Ammonia, Nitrogen, PH, Oryza sativa, Copyright, Nitrate reductase


We have investigated the role of redox cooperativity in defining the functional relationship between the three membrane-embedded prosthetic groups of Escherichia coli nitrate reductase A (NarGHI): the two hemes (bD and bP) of the membrane anchor subunit (NarI) and the [3Fe-4S] cluster (FS4) of the electron-transfer subunit (NarH). Previously published analyses of potentiometric titrations were rationalized with the following anomalous behaviors: (i) fits of titration data for heme bp and the [3Fe-4S] cluster exhibited two apparent components; (ii) heme bD titrated with an apparent electron stoichiometry (n) of less than 1.0; and (iii) the binding of quinol oxidation inhibitors shifted the reduction potentials of both hemes despite there being only a single quinol oxidation site (Q-site) in close juxtaposition to heme bD. Furthermore, both hemes appeared to be affected despite the absence of major structural shifts upon inhibitor binding, as judged by X-ray crystallography, or evidence for a second Q-site in the vicinity of heme bP. In a re-examination of the redox behavior of hemes bD and bP and FS4 we have developed a cooperative redox model of cofactor interaction. We show that anti-cooperative interactions provide an explanation for the anomalous behavior. We propose that the role of such anti-cooperative redox behavior in vivo is to facilitate transmembrane electron-transfer across an energy-conserving membrane against an electrochemical potential.

Concepts: Redox, Electrochemistry, Escherichia coli, Nitrogen, Vitamin C, Potassium permanganate, Manganese, Nitrate reductase


Burkholderia thailandensis is closely related to B. pseudomallei, a bacterial pathogen and the causative agent of melioidosis. B. pseudomallei can survive and persist within a hypoxic environment for up to one year and has been shown to grow anaerobically in the presence of nitrate. Currently, little is known about the role of anaerobic respiration in pathogenesis of melioidosis. Using B. thailandensis as a model, a library of 1,344 transposon mutants was created to identify genes required for anaerobic nitrate respiration. One transposon mutant (CA01) was identified with an insertion in BTH_I1704 (moeA), a gene required for the molybdopterin biosynthetic pathway. This pathway is involved in the synthesis of a molybdopterin cofactor required for a variety of molybdoenzymes, including nitrate reductase. Disruption of molybdopterin biosynthesis prevented growth under anaerobic conditions, when using nitrate as the sole terminal electron acceptor. Defects in anaerobic respiration, nitrate reduction, motility and biofilm formation were observed for CA01. Mutant complementation with pDA-17::BTH_I1704 was able to restore anaerobic growth on nitrate, nitrate reductase activity and biofilm formation, but did not restore motility. This study highlights the potential importance of molybdoenzyme-dependent anaerobic respiration in the survival and virulence of B. thailandensis.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Cellular respiration, Burkholderia, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Molybdopterin, Burkholderia thailandensis, Nitrate reductase