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Biochemistry. 1997 May 6;36(18):5509-21.

Membrane localization, topology, and mutual stabilization of the rnfABC gene products in Rhodobacter capsulatus and implications for a new family of energy-coupling NADH oxidoreductases.

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Department of Biology, Graduate School of Science, Osaka University, Toyonaka, Japan.


The rnf genes in Rhodobacter capsulatus are unique nitrogen fixation genes that encode potential membrane proteins (RnfA, RnfD, and RnfE) and potential iron-sulfur proteins (RnfB and RnfC). In this study, we first analyzed the localization and topology of the RnfA, RnfB, and RnfC proteins. By activity and immunoblot analysis of expression of translational fusions to Escherichia coli alkaline phosphatase, RnfA protein was shown to span the chromatophore membrane with its odd-numbered hydrophilic regions exposed to periplasm. By alkaline treatment of membrane fractions and following immunoblot analysis using antibodies against recombinant proteins expressed in E. coli, both RnfB and RnfC proteins were revealed to situate at the periphery of the chromatophore membranes. Second, mutual interaction of the Rnf proteins was analyzed by immunochemical determinations of RnfB and RnfC proteins in rnf mutants and their complemented derivatives. The contents in cellular fractions indicated that RnfB and RnfC stabilize each other and that the presence of RnfA is necessary for stable existence of both proteins. These results support a hypothesis that the Rnf products are subunits of a membrane complex. Finally, we detected homologs of rnf genes in Haemophilus influenzae and Vibrio alginolyticus by data base searches and in E. coli by cloning of a fragment of an rnfA homolog followed by a data base search. Close comparisons revealed that RnfC has potential binding sites for NADH and FMN which are similar to those found in proton-translocating NADH:quinone oxidoreductases and that RnfA, RnfD, and RnfE show similarity to subunits of sodium-translocating NADH:quinone oxidoreductases. We predict that the putative Rnf complex represents a novel family of energy-coupling NADH oxidoreductases.

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