Growth- and substrate-dependent transcription of the formate dehydrogenase (fdhCAB) operon in Methanobacterium thermoformicicum Z-245

J Nölling, J N Reeve
Journal of Bacteriology 1997, 179 (3): 899-908
The formate dehydrogenase-encoding fdhCAB operon and flanking genes have been cloned and sequenced from Methanobacterium thermoformicicum Z-245. fdh transcription was shown to be initiated 21 bp upstream from fdhC, although most fdh transcripts terminated or were processed between fdhC and fdhA. The resulting fdhC, fdhAB, and fdhCAB transcripts were present at all growth stages in cells growing on formate but were barely detectable during early exponential growth on H2 plus CO2. The levels of the fdh transcripts did, however, increase dramatically in cells growing on H2 plus CO2, coincident with the decrease in the growth rate and the onset of constant methanogenesis that occurred when culture densities reached an optical density at 600 nm of approximately 0.5. The mth transcript that encodes the H2-dependent methenyl-H4 MPT reductase (MTH) and the frh and mvh transcripts that encode the coenzyme F420-reducing (FRH) and nonreducing (MVH) hydrogenases, respectively, were also present in cells growing on formate, consistent with the synthesis of three hydrogenases, MTH, FRH, and MVH, in the absence of exogenously supplied H2. Reducing the H2 supply to M. thermoformicicum cells growing on H2 plus CO2 reduced the growth rate and CH4 production but increased frh and fdh transcription and also increased transcription of the mtd, mer, and mcr genes that encode enzymes that catalyze steps 4, 5, and 7, respectively, in the pathway of CO2 reduction to CH4. Reducing the H2 supply to a level insufficient for growth resulted in the disappearance of all methane gene transcripts except the mcr transcript, which increased. Regions flanking the fdhCAB operon in M. thermoformicicum Z-245 were used as probes to clone the homologous region from the Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum deltaH genome. Sequencing revealed the presence of very similar genes except that the genome of M. thermoautotrophicum, a methanogen incapable of growth on formate, lacked the fdhCAB operon.

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