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The synthesis of the modified tetrapyrrole known as d(1) haem requires several dedicated proteins which are coded for by a set of genes that are often found adjacent to the structural gene, nirS, for cytochrome cd(1) nitrite reductase. NirE, the product of the first gene in the nir biogenesis operon, was anticipated to catalyse the conversion of uroporphyrinogen III into precorrin-2; this was confirmed, but it was shown that this enzyme is less sensitive to product inhibition than similar enzymes that function in other biosynthetic pathways. Sequence analysis suggesting that one of these proteins, NirN, is a c-type cytochrome, and has similarity to the part of cytochrome cd(1) that binds d(1), was validated by recombinant production and characterization of NirN. A NirN-d(1) haem complex was demonstrated to release the cofactor to a semi-apo form of cytochrome cd(1) from which d(1) was extracted, suggesting a role for NirN in the assembly of cytochrome cd(1) (NirS). However, inactivation of nirN surprisingly led to only a marginal attenuation of growth of Paracoccus pantotrophus under anaerobic denitrifying conditions. As predicted, NirC is a c-type cytochrome; it was shown in vitro to be an electron donor to the NirN-d(1) complex.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





6399 - 6411


Anion Transport Proteins, Bacteria, Cytochromes, Escherichia coli Proteins, Heme, Nitrite Reductases, Paracoccus pantotrophus, Uroporphyrinogens, Uroporphyrins