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Nitration of a peptide phytotoxin by bacterial nitric oxide synthase


Nitric oxide (NO) is a potent intercellular signal in mammals that mediates key aspects of blood pressure, hormone release, nerve transmission and the immune response of higher organisms1,2,3,4. Proteins homologous to full-length mammalian nitric oxide synthases (NOSs) are found in lower multicellular organisms5. Recently, genome sequencing has shown that some bacteria contain genes coding for truncated NOS proteins; this is consistent with reports of NOS-like activities in bacterial extracts6,7. Biological functions for bacterial NOSs are unknown, but have been presumed to be analogous to their role in mammals. Here we describe a gene in the plant pathogen Streptomyces turgidiscabies that encodes a NOS homologue, and we reveal its role in nitrating a dipeptide phytotoxin required for plant pathogenicity8. High similarity between bacterial NOSs indicates a general function in biosynthetic nitration; thus, bacterial NOSs constitute a new class of enzymes9,10,11. Here we show that the primary function of Streptomyces NOS is radically different from that of mammalian NOS. Surprisingly, mammalian NO signalling and bacterial biosynthetic nitration share an evolutionary origin.

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Figure 1: The nos gene is upstream of characterized thaxtomin biosynthetic genes.
Figure 2: Deletion of nos decreases thaxtomin production by S. turgidiscabies.
Figure 3: Nitrite formation from Nω-hydroxy-l-arginine by recombinant stNOS, and sensitivity to inhibitors of mammalian NOSs.
Figure 4: The nitrate nitrogen of thaxtomin A derives from the guanidine nitrogen of l-Arg.


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We thank A. Condo Jr and I. Keresztes of the NMR facility of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University, and staff of the Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, School of Chemical Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, for assistance in acquiring spectra for isotopic labelling studies. We also thank R. Parry for helpful discussion, and K. Pant and Madhavan Buddha for help with the NOS assays. We acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative, Biology of Plant–Microbe Associations Program.

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Correspondence to Rosemary Loria.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Figure 1

This figure contains an amino acid alignment of Streptomyces turgidiscabies NOS, Bacillus subtilis NOS, and murine inducible NOS. (DOC 1799 kb)

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Kers, J., Wach, M., Krasnoff, S. et al. Nitration of a peptide phytotoxin by bacterial nitric oxide synthase. Nature 429, 79–82 (2004).

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