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Biochemistry. 1998 Apr 28;37(17):6124-31.

Bacterial expression of a mitochondrial cytochrome c. Trimethylation of lys72 in yeast iso-1-cytochrome c and the alkaline conformational transition.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Saccharomyces cerevisiae iso-1-cytochrome c has been expressed in Escherichia coli by coexpression of the genes encoding the cytochrome (CYC1) and yeast cytochrome c heme lyase (CYC3). Construction of this expression system involved cloning the two genes in parallel into the vector pUC18 to give the plasmid pBPCYC1(wt)/3. Transcription was directed by two promoters, Lac and Trc, that were located upstream from CYC1. Both proteins were expressed in the cytoplasm of E. coli cells harboring the plasmid. Semianaerobic cultures grown in a fermentor produced 15 mg of recombinant iso-1-cytochrome c per liter of culture. Attempts to increase production by addition of IPTG suppressed the number of copies of the CYC1 gene within the population. Wild-type iso-1-cytochrome c expressed with pBPCYC1(wt)/3 in E. coli was compared to the same protein expressed in yeast. At neutral pH, the two proteins exhibit indistinguishable spectroscopic and physical (Tm, Em') characteristics. However, electrospray mass spectrometry revealed that the lysyl residue at position 72 is not trimethylated by E. coli as it is by S. cerevisiae. Interestingly, the pKa of the alkaline transition of the protein expressed in E. coli is approximately 0.6 pKa unit lower than that observed for the cytochrome expressed in yeast (8.5-8.7). 1H NMR spectroscopy of the bacterially expressed cytochrome collected at high pH revealed the presence of a third alkaline conformer that is not observed in the corresponding spectrum of the cytochrome expressed in yeast. These observations suggest that Lys72 can serve as an axial ligand to the heme iron of alkaline iso-1-ferricytochrome c if it is not modified posttranscriptionally to trimethyllysine.

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