Plant & cell physiology

Enzymological evidence for the function of a plastid-located pyruvate carboxylase in the Haptophyte alga Emiliania huxleyi: a novel pathway for the production of C4 compounds.

PMID 22492231


Pyruvate carboxylase (PYC) catalyzes the β-carboxylation of pyruvate to yield oxaloacetate (OAA). We previously isolated a cDNA encoding a putative PYC (EhPYC1) from the haptophyte alga Emiliania huxleyi and then proposed that EhPYC1 contributes to active anaplerotic β-carboxylation during photosynthesis although PYC activity was not detected in the cell extracts. Involvement of PYC in photosynthetic carbon metabolism is unique, since PYC generally functions in non-photosynthetic organisms. In the present study, we demonstrate that EhPYC1 is highly sensitive to endogenous proteases and therefore is easily degraded in cell extracts. By avoiding proteolytic degradation, PYC activity can be detected in the cell extracts of E. huxleyi. The activity of a recombinant His-tagged EhPYC1 expressed in Streptomyces lividans was inhibited by l-malate in a mixed non-competitive manner. Immunofluorescence labeling showed that EhPYC1 is located in the plastid. This result agrees with the prediction that a bipartite plastid-targeting signal is present that functions to deliver proteins into the four-membrane plastid of haptophyte algae. This is the first finding of a plastid-located PYC. These results indicate that E. huxleyi possesses a unique pathway to produce OAA catalyzed by PYC, and the pathway may provide carbon skeletons for amino acid biosynthesis in the plastid. A database search indicates that PYC genes are widespread in green algae, diatoms and brown algae, suggesting the crucial role of PYC in various aquatic phototrophs.