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ACS Chem Biol. 2012 Feb 17;7(2):260-8. doi: 10.1021/cb2003913. Epub 2011 Dec 12.

Chemistry and biology of the copper chelator methanobactin.

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Departments of Molecular Biosciences and of Chemistry, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, United States.


Methanotrophic bacteria, organisms that oxidize methane, produce a small copper chelating molecule called methanobactin (Mb). Mb binds Cu(I) with high affinity and is hypothesized to mediate copper acquisition from the environment. Recent advances in Mb characterization include revision of the chemical structure of Mb from Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b and further investigation of its biophysical properties. In addition, Mb production by several other methanotroph strains has been investigated, and preliminary characterization suggests diversity in chemical composition. Initial clues into Mb biosynthesis have been obtained by identification of a putative precursor gene in the M. trichosporium OB3b genome. Finally, direct uptake of intact Mb into the cytoplasm of M. trichosporium OB3b cells has been demonstrated, and studies of the transport mechanism have been initiated. Taken together, these advances represent significant progress and set the stage for exciting new research directions.

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