Advances in applied microbiology

An introduction to nitric oxide sensing and response in bacteria.

PMID 24581392


Nitric oxide (NO) is a radical gas that has been intensively studied for its role as a bacteriostatic agent. NO reacts in complex ways with biological molecules, especially metal centers and other radicals, to generate other bioactive compounds that inhibit enzymes, oxidize macromolecules, and arrest bacterial growth. Bacteria encounter not only NO derived from the host during infection but also NO derived from other bacteria and inorganic sources. The transcriptional responses used by bacteria to respond to NO are diverse but usually involve an iron-containing transcription factor that binds NO and alters its affinity for either DNA or factors involved in transcription, leading to the production of enzymatic tolerance systems. Some of these systems, such as flavohemoglobin and flavorubredoxin, directly remove NO. Some do not but are still important for NO tolerance through other mechanisms. The targets of NO that are protected by these systems include many metabolic pathways such as the tricarboxylic acid cycle and branched chain amino acid synthesis. This chapter discusses these topics and others and serves as a general introduction to microbial NO biology.