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Biol Pharm Bull. 2013;36(11):1835-41. Epub 2013 Aug 28.

Role of MerC, MerE, MerF, MerT, and/or MerP in resistance to mercurials and the transport of mercurials in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Public Health and Molecular Toxicology, School of Pharmacy, Kitasato University.


The characteristics of bacteria take up mercury into cells via membrane potential-dependent sequence-divergent members of the mercuric ion (Mer) superfamily, i.e., a periplasmic mercuric ion scavenging protein (MerP) and one or more inner membrane-spanning proteins (MerC, MerE, MerF, and MerT), which transport mercuric ions into the cytoplasm, have been applied in engineering of bioreactor used for mercurial bioremediation. We engineered bacteria to express MerC, MerE, MerF, or MerT with or without MerP to clarify their individual role and potential in transport of mercurial. By immunoblot analysis using specific polyclonal antibody, the proteins encoded by merC, merE, merF, merT or merP, were certainly expressed and identified in the membrane fraction. Bacteria expressing MerC, MerE, MerF or MerT in the absence of MerP transported significantly more C6H5Hg(I) and Hg(II) across bacterial membrane than their isogenic strain. In vivo expression of MerP in the presence of all the transporters did not cause apparent difference to the C6H5Hg(I) transport, but gives an apparently higher Hg(II) transport than that did by MerE, MerF or MerT but not by MerC. Among the four transporters studied, MerC showed more potential to transport Hg(II) across bacterial membrane than MerE, MerF and MerT. Together these findings, we demonstrated for the first time that in addition to MerE and MerT, MerF and MerC are broad-spectrum mercury transporters that mediate both Hg(II) and phenylmercury transport into cells. Our results suggested that MerC is the most efficient tool for designing mercurial bioremediation systems, because MerC is sufficient for mercurial transport into cells.

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