Use of heme reporters for studies of cytochrome biosynthesis and heme transport

Barry S. Goldman, Karen K. Gabbert, Robert G. Kranz

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65 Scopus citations


Strains of Escherichia coli containing mutations in the cydDC genes are defective for synthesis of the heme proteins cytochrome bd and c-type cytochromes. The cydDC genes encode a putative heterodimeric ATP-binding cassette transporter that has been proposed to act as an exporter of heme to the periplasm. To more fully understand the role of this transporter (and other factors) in heme protein biosynthesis, we developed plasmids that produce various heme proteins (e.g., cytochrome b5, cytochrome b562, and hemoglobin) in the periplasm of E. coli. By using these reporters, it was shown that the steady-state levels of polypeptides of heme proteins known to be stable without heme (e.g., cytochrome b5 and hemoglobin apoprotein) are significantly reduced in a cydC mutant. Exogenous addition of heroin to the cydC mutant still resulted in < 10% of wild-type steady-state levels of apohemoglobin in the periplasm. Since the results of heme reporter studies are not consistent with lower heme availability (i.e., heme export) in a cydC mutant, we analyzed other properties of the periplasm in cydC mutants and compared them with those of the periplasm in cyd4B (encoding cytochrome bd) mutants and wild-type cells. Our results led us to favor a hypothesis whereby cydDC mutants are defective in the reduction environment within the periplasmic space. Such an imbalance could lead to defects in the synthesis of heme-liganded proteins. The heme reporters were also used to analyze strains of E. coli with a defect in genes encoding homologs of a different ABC transporter (helABC). The helABC genes have previously been shown to be required for the assembly of c-type cytochromes in Rhodobacter capsulatus (R. G. Kranz. J. Bacteriol. 171:456-464, 1989; D. L. Beckman, D. R. Trawick, and R. G. Kranz, Genes Dev. 6:268-283, 1992). This locus was shown to be essential in E. coli for endogenous cytochrome c biogenesis but not cytochrome b562 synthesis. Consistent with these and previous results, it is proposed that the HelABC transporter is specifically involved in heme export for ligation (hel). This class of periplasmic cytochromes is proposed to require heme liganding before undergoing correct folding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6338-6347
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number21
StatePublished - 1996


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