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Biochemistry. 2000 May 2;39(17):5117-25.

A hemerythrin-like domain in a bacterial chemotaxis protein.

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Department of Chemistry and Center for Metalloenzyme Studies, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602-2556, USA.


Hemerythrin (Hr) is an O(2)-carrying protein found in some marine invertebrates. A conserved sequence motif in all Hrs provides five histidine and two carboxylate ligands to an oxo-/hydroxo-bridged diiron active site, as well as a hydrophobic O(2) binding pocket. Database searches located a previously unrecognized Hr-like sequence motif at the 3' end of the gene, dcrH, from the anaerobic sulfate-reducing bacterium, Desulfovibrio (D.) vulgaris (Hildenborough). This gene encodes a putative methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein, DcrH. We have established by immunoblotting that a full-length DcrH, including the Hr-like domain, is expressed in D. vulgaris (Hildenborough). The C-terminal domain of DcrH, when expressed separately in recombinant form in Escherichia coli, was found to fold into a stable protein, DcrH-Hr. The UV-vis absorption and resonance Raman spectra of DcrH-Hr, and of its azide adduct, provide clear evidence for an oxo-bridged diiron(III) site very similar to that found in Hr. Based on UV-vis absorption spectra, exposure of the reduced (colorless, presumably diferrous) DcrH-Hr to air resulted in formation of an O(2) adduct also very similar to that of Hr. Unlike that of Hr, the O(2) adduct of DcrH-Hr autoxidized within a few minutes at room temperature. The O(2) binding pocket of DcrH-Hr appears to be larger than that of Hr. Given the air-sensitive nature of D. vulgaris and the putative chemotactic function of DcrH, one possible role for the Hr-like domain of DcrH is O(2)-sensing. DcrH-Hr is the first characterized example of a Hr-like protein from any microorganism.

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