A metabolic enzyme that rapidly produces superoxide, fumarate reductase of Escherichia coli

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Aerobic organisms synthesize superoxide dismutases in order to escape injury from endogenous superoxide. An earlier study of Escherichia coli indicated that intracellular superoxide is formed primarily by autoxidation of components of the respiratory chain. In order to identify those components, inverted respiratory vesicles were incubated with five respiratory substrates. In most cases, essentially all of the superoxide was formed through autoxidation of fumarate reductase, despite the paucity of this anaerobic terminal oxidase in the aerobic cells from which the vesicles were prepared. In contrast, most dehydrogenases, the respiratory quinones, and the cytochrome oxidases did not produce any detectable superoxide. The propensity of fumarate reductase to generate superoxide could conceivably deluge cells with superoxide when anaerobic cells, which contain abundant fumarate reductase, enter an aerobic habitat. In fact, deletion or overexpression of the frd structural genes improved and retarded, respectively, the outgrowth of superoxide dismutase-attenuated cells when they were abruptly aerated, suggesting that fumarate reductase is a major source of superoxide in vivo. Steric inhibitors that bind adjacent to the flavin completely blocked superoxide production, indicating that the flavin, rather than an iron-sulfur cluster, is the direct electron donor to oxygen. Since the turnover numbers for superoxide formation by other flavoenzymes are orders of magnitude lower than that of fumarate reductase (1600 min-1), additional steric or electronic factors must accelerate its autoxidation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19767-19777
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 25 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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