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Alkyl hydroperoxide reductase is the primary scavenger of endogenous hydrogen peroxide in Escherichia coli.

Seaver L.C., Imlay J.A.

Hydrogen peroxide is generated during aerobic metabolism and is capable of damaging critical biomolecules. However, mutants of Escherichia coli that are devoid of catalase typically exhibit no adverse phenotypes during growth in aerobic media. We discovered that catalase mutants retain the ability to rapidly scavenge H(2)O(2) whether it is formed internally or provided exogenously. Analysis of candidate genes revealed that the residual activity is due to alkyl hydroperoxide reductase (Ahp). Mutants that lack both Ahp and catalase could not scavenge H(2)O(2). These mutants excreted substantial amounts of H(2)O(2), and they grew poorly in air. Ahp is kinetically a more efficient scavenger of trace H(2)O(2) than is catalase and therefore is likely to be the primary scavenger of endogenous H(2)O(2). Accordingly, mutants that lack Ahp accumulated sufficient hydrogen peroxide to induce the OxyR regulon, whereas the OxyR regulon remained off in catalase mutants. Catalase still has an important role in wild-type cells, because the activity of Ahp is saturated at a low (10(-5) M) concentration of H(2)O(2). In contrast, catalase has a high K(m), and it therefore becomes the predominant scavenger when H(2)O(2) concentrations are high. This arrangement is reasonable because the cell cannot provide enough NADH for Ahp to rapidly degrade large amounts of H(2)O(2). In sum, E. coli does indeed generate substantial H(2)O(2), but damage is averted by the scavenging activity of Ahp.

J. Bacteriol. 183:7173-7181(2001) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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