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J Bacteriol. 1997 Feb;179(4):1344-53.

The terminal quinol oxidase of the hyperthermophilic archaeon Acidianus ambivalens exhibits a novel subunit structure and gene organization.

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Institute of Biochemistry, Medical University of Lübeck, Germany.


A terminal quinol oxidase has been isolated from the plasma membrane of the crenarchaeon Acidianus ambivalens (DSM 3772) (formerly Desulfurolobus ambivalens), cloned, and sequenced. The detergent-solubilized complex oxidizes caldariella quinol at high rates and is completely inhibited by cyanide and by quinolone analogs, potent inhibitors of quinol oxidases. It is composed of at least five different subunits of 64.9, 38, 20.4, 18.8, and 7.2 kDa; their genes are located in two different operons. doxB, the gene for subunit I, is located together with doxC and two additional small open reading frames (doxE and doxF) in an operon with a complex transcription pattern. Two other genes of the oxidase complex (doxD and doxA) are located in a different operon and are cotranscribed into a common 1.2-kb mRNA. Both operons exist in duplicate on the genome of A. ambivalens. Only subunit I exhibits clear homology to other members of the superfamily of respiratory heme-copper oxidases; however, it reveals 14 transmembrane helices. In contrast, the composition of the accessory proteins is highly unusual; none is homologous to any known accessory protein of cytochrome oxidases, nor do homologs exist in the databases. DoxA is classified as a subunit II equivalent only by analogy of molecular size and hydrophobicity pattern to corresponding polypeptides of other oxidases. Multiple alignments and phylogenetic analysis of the heme-bearing subunit I (DoxB) locate this oxidase at the bottom of the phylogenetic tree, in the branch of heme-copper oxidases recently suggested to be incapable of superstoichiometric proton pumping. This finding is corroborated by lack of the essential amino acid residues delineating the putative H+-pumping channel. It is therefore concluded that A. ambivalens copes with its strongly acidic environment simply by an extreme turnover of its terminal oxidase, generating a proton gradient only by chemical charge separation.

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