Discovery of a gene involved in a third bacterial protoporphyrinogen oxidase activity through comparative genomic analysis and functional complementation

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011 Jul;77(14):4795-801. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00171-11. Epub 2011 Jun 3.


Tetrapyrroles are ubiquitous molecules in nearly all living organisms. Heme, an iron-containing tetrapyrrole, is widely distributed in nature, including most characterized aerobic and facultative bacteria. A large majority of bacteria that contain heme possess the ability to synthesize it. Despite this capability and the fact that the biosynthetic pathway has been well studied, enzymes catalyzing at least three steps have remained "missing" in many bacteria. In the current work, we have employed comparative genomics via the SEED genomic platform, coupled with experimental verification utilizing Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1, to identify one of the missing enzymes, a new protoporphyrinogen oxidase, the penultimate enzyme in heme biosynthesis. COG1981 was identified by genomic analysis as a candidate protein family for the missing enzyme in bacteria that lacked HemG or HemY, two known protoporphyrinogen oxidases. The predicted amino acid sequence of COG1981 is unlike those of the known enzymes HemG and HemY, but in some genomes, the gene encoding it is found neighboring other heme biosynthetic genes. When the COG1981 gene was deleted from the genome of A. baylyi, a bacterium that lacks both hemG and hemY, the organism became auxotrophic for heme. Cultures accumulated porphyrin intermediates, and crude cell extracts lacked protoporphyrinogen oxidase activity. The heme auxotrophy was rescued by the presence of a plasmid-borne protoporphyrinogen oxidase gene from a number of different organisms, such as hemG from Escherichia coli, hemY from Myxococcus xanthus, or the human gene for protoporphyrinogen oxidase.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acinetobacter / enzymology*
  • Acinetobacter / genetics
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Heme / biosynthesis*
  • Myxococcus xanthus / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Protoporphyrinogen Oxidase / genetics*
  • Protoporphyrinogen Oxidase / metabolism
  • Sequence Deletion


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Heme
  • HemG protein, E coli
  • Protoporphyrinogen Oxidase