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Arch Microbiol. 2003 Mar;179(3):145-50. Epub 2003 Feb 7.

Laccases and their occurrence in prokaryotes.

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Institut für Mikrobiologie und Weinforschung, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Becherweg 15, Germany.


Laccases are copper-containing proteins that require O(2) to oxidize phenols, polyphenols, aromatic amines, and different non-phenolic substrates by one-electron transfer, resulting in the formation of reactive radicals. Although their specific physiological functions are not completely understood, there are several indications that laccases are involved in the morphogenesis of microorganisms (e.g., fungal spore development, melanization) and in the formation and/or degradation of complex organic substances such as lignin or humic matter. Owing to their high relative non-specific oxidation capacity, laccases are useful biocatalysts for diverse biotechnological applications. To date, laccases have been found only in eukaryotes (fungi, plants); however, databank searches and experimental data now provide evidence for their distribution in prokaryotes. This survey shows that laccase-like enzymes occur in many gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Corresponding genes have been found in prokaryotes that are thought to have branched off early during evolution, e.g., the extremely thermophilic Aquifex aeolicus and the archaeon Pyrobaculum aerophilum. Phylogenetically, the enzymes are members of the multi-copper protein family that have developed from small-sized prokaryotic azurins to eukaryotic plasma proteins.

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