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Biomacromolecules. 2004 Jan-Feb;5(1):40-8.

Poly(hydroxyalkanoic acid) Biosynthesis in Ectothiorhodospirashaposhnikovii: Characterization and Reactivity of a Type III PHA Synthase.

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Department of Microbiology and Polymer Science and Engineering Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 01003, USA.


Ectothiorhodospira shaposhnikovii is able to accumulate polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) photoautotrophically during nitrogen-limited growth. The activity of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) synthase in the cells correlates with PHB accumulation. PHA synthase samples collected during the light period do not show a lag phase during in vitro polymerization. Synthase samples collected in the dark period displays a significant lag phase during in vitro polymerization. The lag phase can be eliminated by reacting the PHA synthase with the monomer, 3-hydroxybutyryl-CoA (3HBCoA). The PHA synthase genes (phaC and phaE) were cloned by screening a genomic library for PHA accumulation in E. coli cells. The PHA synthase expressed in the recombinant E. coli cells was purified to homogeneity. Both sequence analysis and biochemical studies indicated that this PHA synthase consists of two subunits, PhaE and PhaC and, therefore, belongs to the type III PHA synthases. Two major complexes were identified in preparations of purified PHA synthase. The large complex appears to be composed of 12 PhaC subunits and 12 PhaE subunits (dodecamer), whereas the small complex appears to be composed of 6 PhaC and 6 PhaE subunits (hexamer). In dilute aqueous solution, the synthase is predominantly composed of hexamer and has low activity accompanied with a significant lag period at the initial stage of reaction. The percentage of dodecameric complex increases with increasing salt concentration. The dodecameric complex has a greatly increased specific activity for the polymerization of 3HBCoA and a negligible lag period. The results from in vitro polymerizations of 3HBCoA suggest that the PHA synthase from E. shaposhnikovii may catalyze a living polymerization and demonstrate that two PhaC and two PhaE subunits comprise a single catalytic site in the synthase complex.

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