Enzymatic Production of Extracellular Reactive Oxygen Species by Marine Microorganisms

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Julia M Diaz, Peter F Andeer and Colleen M Hansel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole, MA, United States
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) serve as intermediates in a myriad of biogeochemically important processes, including cell signaling pathways, cellular oxidative stress responses, and the transformation of both nutrient and toxic metals such as iron and mercury. Abiotic reactions involving the photo-oxidation of organic matter were once considered the only important sources of ROS in the environment. However, the recent discovery of substantial biological ROS production in marine systems has fundamentally shifted this paradigm. Within the last few decades, marine phytoplankton, including diatoms of the genus Thalassiosira, were discovered to produce ample extracellular quantities of the ROS superoxide. Even more recently, we discovered widespread production of extracellular superoxide by phylogenetically and ecologically diverse heterotrophic bacteria at environmentally significant levels (up to 20 amol cell-1 hr-1), which has introduced the revolutionary potential for substantial “dark” cycling of ROS. Despite the profound biogeochemical importance of extracellular biogenic ROS, the cellular mechanisms underlying the production of this ROS have remained elusive. Through the development of a gel-based assay to identify extracellular ROS-producing proteins, we have recently found that enzymes typically involved in antioxidant activity also produce superoxide when molecular oxygen is the only available electron acceptor. For example, large (~3600 amino acids) heme peroxidases are involved in extracellular superoxide production by a bacterium within the widespread Roseobacter clade. In Thalassiosira spp., extracellular superoxide is produced by flavoproteins such as glutathione reductase and ferredoxin NADP+ reductase. Thus, extracellular ROS production may occur via secreted and/or cell surface enzymes that modulate between producing and degrading ROS depending on prevailing geochemical and/or ecological conditions.