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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2012 Sep 15;525(2):170-80. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Jun 12.

Fungal catalases: function, phylogenetic origin and structure.

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Departamento de Biología Celular y del Desarrollo, Instituto de Fisiología Celular, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM, Mexico City, Mexico.


Most fungi have several monofunctional heme-catalases. Filamentous ascomycetes (Pezizomycotina) have two types of large-size subunit catalases (L1 and L2). L2-type are usually induced by different stressors and are extracellular enzymes; those from the L1-type are not inducible and accumulate in asexual spores. L2 catalases are important for growth and the start of cell differentiation, while L1 are required for spore germination. In addition, pezizomycetes have one to four small-size subunit catalases. Yeasts (Saccharomycotina) do not have large-subunit catalases and generally have one peroxisomal and one cytosolic small-subunit catalase. Small-subunit catalases are inhibited by substrate while large-subunit catalases are activated by H(2)O(2). Some small-subunit catalases bind NADPH preventing inhibition by substrate. We present a phylogenetic analysis revealing one or two events of horizontal gene transfers from Actinobacteria to a fungal ancestor before fungal diversification, as the origin of large-size subunit catalases. Other possible horizontal transfers of small- and large-subunit catalases genes were detected and one from bacteria to the fungus Malassezia globosa was analyzed in detail. All L2-type catalases analyzed presented a secretion signal peptide. Mucorales preserved only L2-type catalases, with one containing a secretion signal if two or more are present. Basidiomycetes have only L1-type catalases, all lacking signal peptide. Fungal small-size catalases are related to animal catalases and probably evolved from a common ancestor. However, there are several groups of small-size catalases. In particular, a conserved group of fungal sequences resemble plant catalases, whose phylogenetic origin was traced to a group of bacteria. This group probably has the heme orientation of plant catalases and could in principle bind NADPH. From almost a hundred small-subunit catalases only one fourth has a peroxisomal localization signal and in fact many fungi lack a peroxisomal catalase. Catalases have a deep buried active site and H(2)O(2) has to go through a long passage to reach it. In all known structures of catalases, the major channel has common features, particularly in the straight and narrow final section that is positioned perpendicular to the heme. Besides, other conserved channels are present in catalases whose function remains to be elucidated. One of these channels intercommunicates the major channels from the two R-related subunits. In three of the four known large-subunits catalase structures, the heme b is partially transformed into heme d. In Neurospora crassa, this occurs in vivo and is related to oxidative stress conditions in which singlet oxygen is produced. A pure source of singlet oxygen oxidizes catalases purified from different sources and singlet oxygen quenchers prevent oxidation. A second modification is observed in N. crassa catalase-1, in which the tyrosine that forms the fifth coordination bound to the heme iron makes a covalent bond with a vicinal cysteine, similarly to the tyrosine-histidine bonding found in Escherichia coli hydroperoxidase II. Molecular dynamics has been used to determine how H(2)O(2) reaches the enzyme active site and how products exit the protein. We found that the bottleneck of the major channel seems to disappear in water and is wide open in the presence of substrate. Amino acid residues exhibiting an increased residence time for H(2)O(2) are abundant at the protein surface and at the entrances to the major channel. The net effect of this is an increased H(2)O(2)/H(2)O ratio in the major channel. Once in the final section of this channel, H(2)O(2) is retained and tends to occupy specific sites while water molecules have a higher turnover rate and occupy different sites. Despite the intense study of catalases our knowledge of this enzyme is still limited and in need of new studies and different approaches.

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