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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1989 Jul;55(7):1811-7.

Catechol Formation and Melanization by Na -Dependent Azotobacter chroococcum: a Protective Mechanism for Aeroadaptation?

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Department of Microbiology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2E9.


Aeroadaptive microaerophilic Azotobacter chroococcum 184 produced a cell-associated black pigment when grown at high aeration rates under nitrogen-fixing conditions. This pigment was shown to be a catechol melanin. Polyphenol oxidase activity was detected in cell extracts of cells grown for 72 h. Melanin formation was optimal in the later stages of growth, and there was no correlation between nitrogenase activity and melanization. Nitrogenase activity in strain 184 was optimal at 10% O(2), and melanin formation was suppressed by O(2) limitation. In the presence of charcoal, an adsorbent of toxic oxygen intermediates, and benzoic acid, a scavenger of hydroxyl radicals, melanization was inhibited. However, in the presence of copper, the intensity of pigment color increased and melanization was accelerated. Copper also eliminated catalase and peroxidase activities of the organism but still permitted aerobic growth. In the presence of low levels of iron, melanization was accelerated under high aeration rates, and under low rates of aeration, melanization was observed only at higher levels of iron. Hydroxamate-siderophore production was detectable in the presence of soluble iron under high rates of aeration but was repressed by the same levels of iron under low aeration rates. Unlike melanization and hydroxamate formation, catechol formation was observed under both low and high rates of aeration under nitrogen-fixing conditions. Catechol formation and melanization were repressed by 14 mM NH(4), at which level nitrogenase activity was also repressed. Copper reversed the repressive effect of NH(4). A role for catechol formation and melanization in aeroadaptation is proposed.


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