Active Fe-superoxide dismutase (SodF) was the third most abundant soluble protein in cells of Nostoc commune CHEN/1986 after prolonged (13 years) storage in the desiccated state. Upon rehydration, Fe-containing superoxide disumutase (Fe-SOD) was released and the activity was distributed between rehydrating cells and the extracellular fluid. The 21-kDa Fe-SOD polypeptide was purified, the N terminus was sequenced, and the data were used to isolate sodF from the clonal isolate N. commune DRH1. sodF encodes an open reading frame of 200 codons and is expressed as a monocistronic transcript (of approximately 750 bases) from a region of the genome which includes genes involved in nucleic acid synthesis and repair, including dipyrimidine photolyase (phr) and cytidylate monophosphate kinase (panC). sodF mRNA was abundant and stable in cells after long-term desiccation. Upon rehydration of desiccated cells, there was a turnover of sodF mRNA within 15 min and then a rise in the mRNA pool to control levels (quantity of sodF mRNA in cells in late logarithmic phase of growth) over approximately 24 h. The extensive extracellular polysaccharide (glycan) of N. commune DRH1 generated superoxide radicals upon exposure to UV-A or -B irradiation, and these were scavenged by SOD. Despite demonstrated roles for the glycan in the desiccation tolerance of N. commune, it may in fact be a significant source of damaging free radicals in vivo. It is proposed that the high levels of SodF in N. commune, and release of the enzyme from dried cells upon rehydration, counter the effects of oxidative stress imposed by multiple cycles of desiccation and rehydration during UV-A or -B irradiation in situ.
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