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Adv Microb Physiol. 2003;47:131-86.

The biodiversity of microbial cytochromes P450.

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Wolfson Laboratory of P450 Biodiversity, Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Wales Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK.


The cytochrome P450 (CYP) superfamily of genes and proteins are well known for their involvement in pharmacology and toxicology, but also increasingly for their importance and diversity in microbes. The extent of diversity has only recently become apparent with the emergence of data from whole genome sequencing projects and the coming years will reveal even more information on the diversity in microbial eukaryotes. This review seeks to describe the historical development of these studies and to highlight the importance of the genes and proteins. CYPs are deeply involved in the development of strategies for deterrence and attraction as well as detoxification. As such, there is intense interest in pathways of secondary metabolism that include CYPs in oxidative tailoring of antibiotics, sometimes influencing potency as bioactive compounds. Further to this is interest in CYPs in metabolism of xenobiotics for use as carbon sources for microbial growth and as biotransformation agents or in bioremediation. CYPs are also current and potential drug targets; compounds inhibiting CYP are antifungal and anti-protozoan agents, and potentially similar compounds may be useful against some bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis. Of note is the diversity of CYP requirements within an organism, ranging from Escherichia coli that has no CYPs as in many bacteria, to Mycobacterium smegmatis that has 40 representing 1% of coding genes. The basidiomycete fungus Phanerochaete chrysosporium surprised all when it was found to contain a hundred or more CYPs. The functional genomic investigation of these orphan CYPs is a major challenge for the future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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