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Studies of cryptic phytochromes in Rhodopsedomonas palustris Meng, Li

Abstract

Bacteriophytochromes (Bphs) comprise a family of protein photoreceptors that help bacteria sense changes in light. Bphs contain a chromophore that, upon absorption of red or far-red light, undergoes a cis-trans isomerization that leads to a conformational change in the holoprotein (photoconversion). In the active conformation, Bphs act as a kinase and regulate gene expression through phosphorylation of target proteins. Two putative Bph orfs (rpa0122 and rpa0990) in the Rhodopseudomonas palustris genome encode Bph-like proteins that have a conserved chromophore-binding cysteine residue. The hypothesis is that one or both of these unique Bph-like genes encode proteins that are capable of binding a chromophore and functioning to modulate the cell’s phenotype. I expressed and purified His-tagged RPA0990 in R. palustris, because proteolytic degradation was observed during overexpression in an E coli. expression system. The results show that RPA0990 contains a chromophore and is capable of photoconversion. The wavelengths of light absorbed by the Pr/Pfr forms of RPA0990, predicted to be active and inactive forms respectively, were determined to be 695 nm and 755 nm. Investigation into the phenotype of the bph mutants rpa0122 and rpa0990 revealed that both of these Bphs may have a small effect on light-harvesting complexes. Also, it was observed that the absence of O₂ does not inhibit the normal function of Bphs, although O₂ was thought to be needed to make a linear tetrapyrrole cofactor, by cleaving heme using heme oxygenase. I suggest that a linear tetrapyrrole can be made anaerobically, either through anaerobic heme cleavage by a novel enzyme, or directly from the heme precursor hydroxymethylbilane without ring cleavage. The activity of a divergent promoter region between the rpa1490 (bph3) and rpa1491 (pucBe) genes was evaluated by using the E. coli lacZ gene as a reporter. The results indicated that the pucBe promoter has much higher activity than the bph3 promoter. It was also found that double knockout of the regulatory genes ppsR1ˉ2ˉ led to an increase in bph3::lacZ expression and a decrease in pucBe::lacZ expression.

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