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Adv Microb Physiol. 2000;43:165-224.

Redundancy of aerobic respiratory chains in bacteria? Routes, reasons and regulation.

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Krebs Institute for Biomolecular Research, University of Sheffield, UK.


Bacteria are the most remarkable organisms in the biosphere, surviving and growing in environments that support no other life forms. Underlying this ability is a flexible metabolism controlled by a multitude of environmental sensors and regulators of gene expression. It is not surprising, therefore, that bacterial respiration is complex and highly adaptable: virtually all bacteria have multiple, branched pathways for electron transfer from numerous low-potential reductants to several terminal electron acceptors. Such pathways, particularly those involved in anaerobic respiration, may involve periplasmic components, but the respiratory apparatus is largely membrane-bound and organized such that electron flow is coupled to proton (or sodium ion) transport, generating a protonmotive force. It has long been supposed that the multiplicity of pathways serves to provide flexibility in the face of environmental stresses, but the existence of apparently redundant pathways for electrons to a single acceptor, say dioxygen, is harder to explain. Clues have come from studying the expression of oxidases in response to growth conditions, the phenotypes of mutants lacking one or more oxidases, and biochemical characterization of individual oxidases. Terminal oxidases that share the essential properties of substrate (cytochrome c or quinol) oxidation, dioxygen reduction and, in some cases, proton translocation, differ in subunit architecture and complement of redox centres. Perhaps more significantly, they differ in their affinities for oxidant and reductant, mode of regulation, and inhibitor sensitivity; these differences to some extent rationalize the presence of multiple oxidases. However, intriguing requirements for particular functions in certain physiological functions remain unexplained. For example, a large body of evidence demonstrates that cytochrome bd is essential for growth and survival under certain conditions. In this review, the physiological basis of the many phenotypes of Cyd-mutants is explored, particularly the requirement for this oxidase in diazotrophy, growth at low protonmotive force, survival in the stationary phase, and resistance to oxidative stress and Fe(III) chelators.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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