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Nitrite reduction: a ubiquitous function from a pre-aerobic past

Cutruzzolà, Francesca, Rinaldo, Serena, Castiglione, Nicoletta, Giardina, Giorgio, Pecht, Israel, Brunori, Maurizio
BioEssays 2009 v.31 no.8 pp. 885-891
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, bacteria, biochemical pathways, dissociation, eukaryotic cells, homeostasis, nitric oxide, nitrite reductase, nitrites
In eukaryotes, small amounts of nitrite confer cytoprotection against ischemia/reperfusion-related tissue damage in vivo, possibly via reduction to nitric oxide (NO) and inhibition of mitochondrial function. Several hemeproteins are involved in this protective mechanism, starting with deoxyhemoglobin, which is capable of reducing nitrite. In facultative aerobic bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, nitrite is reduced to NO by specialized heme-containing enzymes called cd₁ nitrite reductases. The details of their catalytic mechanism are summarized below, together with a hypothesis on the biological role of the unusual d₁-heme, which, in the reduced state, shows unique properties (very high affinity for nitrite and exceptionally fast dissociation of NO). Our results support the idea that the nitrite-based reactions of contemporary eukaryotes are a vestige of earlier bacterial biochemical pathways. The evidence that nitrite reductase activities of enzymes with different cellular roles and biochemical features still exist today highlights the importance of nitrite in cellular homeostasis.