Algae and humans share a molybdate transporter

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Apr 19;108(16):6420-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100700108. Epub 2011 Apr 4.


Almost all living organisms need to obtain molybdenum from the external medium to achieve essential processes for life. Activity of important enzymes such as sulfite oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, xanthine dehydrogenase, and nitrate reductase is strictly dependent on the presence of Mo in its active site. Cells take up Mo in the form of the oxianion molybdate, but the molecular nature of the transporters is still not well known in eukaryotes. MOT1 is the first molybdate transporter identified in plant-type eukaryotic organisms, but it is absent in animal genomes. Here we report a molybdate transporter different from the MOT1 family, encoded by the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii gene MoT2, that is also present in animals including humans. The knockdown of CrMoT2 transcription leads to the deficiency of molybdate uptake activity in Chlamydomonas. In addition, heterologous expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae of MoT2 genes from Chlamydomonas and humans support the functionality of both proteins as molybdate transporters. Characterization of CrMOT2 and HsMOT2 activities showed an apparent Km of about 550 nM that, though higher than the Km reported for MOT1, still corresponds to high affinity systems. CrMoT2 transcription is activated when extracellular molybdate concentration is low but in contrast to MoT1 is not activated by nitrate. Analysis of protein databases revealed the presence of four motifs present in all the proteins with high similarity to MOT2, that label a previously undescribed family of proteins probably related to molybdate transport. Our results open the way toward the understanding of molybdate transport as part of molybdenum homeostasis and Moco biosynthesis in animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Anion Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Anion Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Chlamydomonas / genetics
  • Chlamydomonas / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Ion Transport / physiology
  • Molybdenum / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism


  • Anion Transport Proteins
  • molybdate
  • Molybdenum