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J Biol Chem. 2000 Aug 4;275(31):23769-73.

Escherichia coli NifS-like proteins provide selenium in the pathway for the biosynthesis of selenophosphate.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry, NHLBI, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Selenophosphate synthetase (SPS), the selD gene product from Escherichia coli, catalyzes the biosynthesis of monoselenophosphate, AMP, and orthophosphate in a 1:1:1 ratio from selenide and ATP. Kinetic characterization revealed the K(m) value for selenide approached levels that are toxic to the cell. Our previous demonstration that a Se(0)-generating system consisting of l-selenocysteine and the Azotobacter vinelandii NifS protein can replace selenide for selenophosphate biosynthesis in vitro suggested a mechanism whereby cells can overcome selenide toxicity. Recently, three E. coli NifS-like proteins, CsdB, CSD, and IscS, have been overexpressed and characterized. All three enzymes act on selenocysteine and cysteine to produce Se(0) and S(0), respectively. In the present study, we demonstrate the ability of each E. coli NifS-like protein to function as a selenium delivery protein for the in vitro biosynthesis of selenophosphate by E. coli wild-type SPS. Significantly, the SPS (C17S) mutant, which is inactive in the standard in vitro assay with selenide as substrate, was found to exhibit detectable activity in the presence of CsdB, CSD, or IscS and l-selenocysteine. Taken together the ability of the NifS-like proteins to generate a selenium substrate for SPS and the activation of the SPS (C17S) mutant suggest a selenium delivery function for the proteins in vivo.

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