Characterization of the thioredoxin system in Methanosarcina mazei

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Virginia Tech


Thioredoxin (Trx) and thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) along with an electron donor form a thioredoxin system. Such systems are widely distributed among the organisms belonging to the three domains of life. It is one of the major disulfide reducing systems, which provides electrons to several enzymes, such as ribonucleotide reductase, methionine sulfoxide reductase and glutathione peroxidase to name a few. It also plays an important role in combating oxidative stress and redox regulation of metabolism. Trx is a small redox protein, about 12 kDa in size, with an active site motif of Cys-X-X-Cys. The reduction of the disulfide in Trx is catalyzed by TrxR. Two types of thioredoxin reductases are known, namely NADPH thioredoxin reductase (NTR) with NADPH as the electron donor and ferredoxin thioredxoin reductase (FTR) which depends on reduced ferredoxin as electron donor. Although NTR is widely distributed in the three domains of life, it is absent in some archaea, whereas FTRs are mostly found in plants, photosynthetic eukaryotes, cyanobacteria, and some archaea.

The thioredoxin system has been well studied in plants, mammals, and a few bacteria, but not much is known about the archaeal thioredoxin system. Our laboratory has been studying the thioredoxin systems of methanogenic archaea, and a major focus has been on Methanocaldococcus jannaschii, a deeply rooted archaeon that has two Trxs and one TrxR. My thesis research concerns the thioredoxin system of the late evolving members of the group which are exposed to oxygen more frequently than the deeply rooted members of the group, and have several Trxs and TrxRs. Methanosarcina mazei is one such organism, whose thioredoxin system is composed of one NTR, two FTRs, and five Trx homologs.

Characterization of the components of a thioredoxin system sets the basis to further explore its function. I have expressed in Escherichia coli and purified the five Trxs and three TrxRs of M. mazei. I have shown the disulfide reductase activities in MM_Trx1 and MM_Trx5 by their ability to reduce insulin with DTT as the electron donor, and that in MM_Trx3 through the reduction of DTNB by this protein with NADPH as the electron donor, and in the presence of NTR as the enzyme. MM_Trx3 was found to be the only M. mazei thioredoxin to accept electrons through the NTR, and to form a complete Trx - NTR system. The Trx - FTR systems are well studied in plants, and such a system is yet to be defined in archaea. I have proposed a mechanism of action for one of the FTRs. FTR2 harbors a rubredoxin domain, and this unit is the only rubredoxin in this organism. Superoxide reductase, an enzyme that reduces superoxide radical to hydrogen peroxide without forming oxygen, utilizes rubredoxin as the direct electron source and this enzyme is found in certain anaerobes, including Methanosarcina species. Thus, it is possible that FTR2 provides electrons via a Trx to the superoxide reductase of M. mazei. This activity will define FTR2 as a tool in combating oxidative stress in M. mazei.

In my thesis research I have laid a foundation to understand a complex thioredoxin system of M. mazei, to find the role of each Trx and TrxR, and to explore their involvement in oxidative stress and redox regulation.



Thioredoxin, thioredoxin reductase, NADPH thioredoxin reductase, NTR, ferredoxin thioredxoin reductase, FTR, archaea, methanogenic archaea, Methanosarcina mazei, rubredoxin, oxidative stress, redox regulation.