The NOX Family of Proteins Is Also Present in Bacteria

mBio. 2017 Nov 7;8(6):e01487-17. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01487-17.


Transmembrane NADPH oxidase (NOX) enzymes have been so far only characterized in eukaryotes. In most of these organisms, they reduce molecular oxygen to superoxide and, depending on the presence of additional domains, are called NOX or dual oxidases (DUOX). Reactive oxygen species (ROS), including superoxide, have been traditionally considered accidental toxic by-products of aerobic metabolism. However, during the last decade it has become evident that both O2•- and H2O2 are key players in complex signaling networks and defense. A well-studied example is the production of O2•- during the bactericidal respiratory burst of phagocytes; this production is catalyzed by NOX2. Here, we devised and applied a novel algorithm to search for additional NOX genes in genomic databases. This procedure allowed us to discover approximately 23% new sequences from bacteria (in relation to the number of NOX-related sequences identified by the authors) that we have added to the existing eukaryotic NOX family and have used to build an expanded phylogenetic tree. We cloned and overexpressed the identified nox gene from Streptococcus pneumoniae and confirmed that it codes for an NADPH oxidase. The membrane of the S. pneumoniae NOX protein (SpNOX) shares many properties with its eukaryotic counterparts, such as affinity for NADPH and flavin adenine dinucleotide, superoxide dismutase and diphenylene iodonium inhibition, cyanide resistance, oxygen consumption, and superoxide production. Traditionally, NOX enzymes in eukaryotes are related to functions linked to multicellularity. Thus, the discovery of a large family of NOX-related enzymes in the bacterial world brings up fascinating questions regarding their role in this new biological context.IMPORTANCE NADPH oxidase (NOX) enzymes have not yet been reported in bacteria. Here, we carried out computational and experimental studies to provide the first characterization of a prokaryotic NOX. Out of 996 prokaryotic proteins showing NOX signatures, we initially selected, cloned, and overexpressed four of them. Subsequently, and based on preliminary testing, we concentrated our efforts on Streptococcus SpNOX, which shares many biochemical characteristics with NOX2, the referent model of NOX enzymes. Our work makes possible, for the first time, the study of pure forms of this important family of enzymes, allowing for biophysical and molecular characterization in an unprecedented way. Similar advances regarding other membrane protein families have led to new structures, further mechanistic studies, and the improvement of inhibitors. In addition, biological functions of these newly described bacterial enzymes will be certainly discovered in the near future.

Keywords: Streptococcus pneumoniae; biochemistry; electron transport; flavoenzymes; membrane proteins; metalloenzymes; oxidative stress; phylogenetic analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Electron Transport
  • Humans
  • NADPH Oxidase 2 / chemistry
  • NADPH Oxidase 2 / genetics
  • NADPH Oxidases / chemistry
  • NADPH Oxidases / genetics*
  • NADPH Oxidases / isolation & purification
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Phagocytes / enzymology
  • Phylogeny
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / enzymology
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / genetics*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • NADPH Oxidase 2
  • NADPH Oxidases