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J Bacteriol. 2004 May;186(9):2532-9.

Enzymatic characterization of a prokaryotic urea carboxylase.

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  • 1Department of Synthetic Chemistry and Biological Chemistry, Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University, Katsura, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 615-8510, Japan.


We identified the first prokaryotic urea carboxylase (UCA) from a member of the alpha subclass of the class Proteobacteria, Oleomonas sagaranensis. This enzyme (O. sagaranensis Uca) was composed of 1,171 amino acids, and its N-terminal region resembled the biotin carboxylase domains of various biotin-dependent carboxylases. The C-terminal region of the enzyme harbored the Met-Lys-Met motif found in biotin carboxyl carrier proteins. The primary structure of the enzyme was 45% identical to that of the urea carboxylase domain of urea amidolyase from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. O. sagaranensis Uca did not harbor the allophanate hydrolase domain found in the yeast enzyme, but a separate gene with structural similarity was found to be adjacent to the uca gene. Purified recombinant O. sagaranensis Uca displayed ATP-dependent carboxylase activity towards urea (V(max) = 21.2 micro mol mg(-1) min(-1)) but not towards acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) and propionyl-CoA, indicating that the gene encoded a bona fide UCA and not an acetyl-CoA or propionyl-CoA carboxylase. The enzyme also exhibited high levels of activity towards acetamide and formamide. Kinetic parameters of the enzyme reaction were determined with ATP, urea, acetamide, and formamide. O. sagaranensis could grow on urea, acetamide, and formamide as sole nitrogen sources; moreover, ATP-dependent urea-degrading activity was found in cells grown with urea but not in cells grown with ammonia. The results suggest that the UCA of this organism may be involved in the assimilation of these compounds as nitrogen sources. Furthermore, orthologues of the O. sagaranensis uca gene were found to be widely distributed among Bacteria. This implies that there are two systems of urea degradation in Bacteria, a pathway catalyzed by the previously described ureases and the UCA-allophanate hydrolase pathway identified in this study.

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