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J Biol Chem. 1998 Apr 3;273(14):7957-66.

The particulate methane monooxygenase from methylococcus capsulatus (Bath) is a novel copper-containing three-subunit enzyme. Isolation and characterization.

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  • 1Arthur Amos Noyes Laboratory of Chemical Physics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.


The particulate methane monooxygenase (pMMO) is known to be very difficult to study mainly due to its unusual activity instability in vitro. By cultivating Methylococcus capsulatus (Bath) under methane stress conditions and high copper levels in the growth medium, membranes highly enriched in the pMMO with exceptionally stable activity can be isolated from these cells. Purified and active pMMO can be subsequently obtained from these membrane preparations using protocols in which an excess of reductants and anaerobic conditions were maintained during membrane solubilization by dodecyl beta-D-maltoside and purification by chromatography. The pMMO was found to be the major constituent in these membranes, constituting 60-80% of total membrane proteins. The dominant species of the pMMO was found to consist of three subunits, alpha, beta, and gamma, with an apparent molecular mass of 45, 26, and 23 kDa, respectively. A second species of the pMMO, a proteolytically processed version of the enzyme, was found to be composed of three subunits, alpha', beta, and gamma, with an apparent molecular mass of 35, 26, and 23 kDa, respectively. The alpha and alpha' subunits from these two forms of the pMMO contain identical N-terminal sequences. The gamma subunit, however, exhibits variation in its N-terminal sequence. The pMMO is a copper-containing protein only and shows a requirement for Cu(I) ions. Approximately 12-15 Cu ions per 94-kDa monomeric unit were observed. The pMMO is sensitive to dioxygen tension. On the basis of dioxygen sensitivity, three kinetically distinct forms of the enzyme can be distinguished. A slow but air-stable form, which is converted into a "pulsed" state upon direct exposure to atmospheric oxygen pressure, is considered as type I pMMO. This form was the subject of our pMMO isolation effort. Other forms (types II and III) are deactivated to various extents upon exposure to atmospheric dioxygen pressure. Under inactivating conditions, these unstable forms release protons to the buffer (approximately 10 H+/94-kDa monomeric unit) and eventually become completely inactive.

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