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J Bacteriol. 1998 Nov;180(22):5989-96.

Anaerobic expression of Escherichia coli succinate dehydrogenase: functional replacement of fumarate reductase in the respiratory chain during anaerobic growth.

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  • 1Molecular Biology Division (151-S), VA Medical Center, San Francisco, California 94121, USA.


Succinate-ubiquinone oxidoreductase (SQR) from Escherichia coli is expressed maximally during aerobic growth, when it catalyzes the oxidation of succinate to fumarate in the tricarboxylic acid cycle and reduces ubiquinone in the membrane. The enzyme is similar in structure and function to fumarate reductase (menaquinol-fumarate oxidoreductase [QFR]), which participates in anaerobic respiration by E. coli. Fumarate reductase, which is proficient in succinate oxidation, is able to functionally replace SQR in aerobic respiration when conditions are used to allow the expression of the frdABCD operon aerobically. SQR has not previously been shown to be capable of supporting anaerobic growth of E. coli because expression of the enzyme complex is largely repressed by anaerobic conditions. In order to obtain expression of SQR anaerobically, plasmids which utilize the PFRD promoter of the frdABCD operon fused to the sdhCDAB genes to drive expression were constructed. It was found that, under anaerobic growth conditions where fumarate is utilized as the terminal electron acceptor, SQR would function to support anaerobic growth of E. coli. The levels of amplification of SQR and QFR were similar under anaerobic growth conditions. The catalytic properties of SQR isolated from anaerobically grown cells were measured and found to be identical to those of enzyme produced aerobically. The anaerobic expression of SQR gave a greater yield of enzyme complex than was found in the membrane from aerobically grown cells under the conditions tested. In addition, it was found that anaerobic expression of SQR could saturate the capacity of the membrane for incorporation of enzyme complex. As has been seen with the amplified QFR complex, E. coli accommodates the excess SQR produced by increasing the amount of membrane. The excess membrane was found in tubular structures that could be seen in thin-section electron micrographs.

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