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Microbiology. 2005 Nov;151(Pt 11):3803-3810. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.28263-0.

Regulation of nitrate reductase activity in Mycobacterium tuberculosis by oxygen and nitric oxide.

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Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Long Beach, CA 90822, and Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of California, Irvine, CA 92717, USA.


Nitrate reduction by Mycobacterium tuberculosis is regulated by control of the transport of nitrate into the cell by NarK2. When oxygen was introduced into hypoxic cultures, nitrite production was quickly inhibited. The nitrate-reducing enzyme itself is relatively insensitive to oxygen, suggesting that the inhibition of nitrite production by oxygen was a result of interference with nitrate transport. This was not due to degradation of NarK2, as the inhibition was reversed by the removal of oxygen although chloramphenicol prevented new synthesis of NarK2. The oxidant potassium ferricyanide was added to anaerobic cultures to produce a positive redox potential in the absence of oxygen. Nitrite production decreased, signifying that oxidizing conditions, rather than oxygen itself, were responsible for the inhibition of nitrate transport. Nitric oxide added to cultures allowed NarK2 to be active even in the presence of oxygen. A similar result was obtained with hydroxylamine and ethanol, both of which interfere with oxygen utilization and the electron transport chain. It is proposed that NarK2 senses the redox state of the cell, possibly by monitoring the flow of electrons to cytochrome oxidase, and adjusts its activity so that nitrate is transported under reducing, but not under oxidizing, conditions.

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