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1.  Comparative and Functional Genomic Analysis of Prokaryotic Nickel and Cobalt Uptake Transporters: Evidence for a Novel Group of ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(1):317-327.
The transition metals nickel and cobalt, essential components of many enzymes, are taken up by specific transport systems of several different types. We integrated in silico and in vivo methods for the analysis of various protein families containing both nickel and cobalt transport systems in prokaryotes. For functional annotation of genes, we used two comparative genomic approaches: identification of regulatory signals and analysis of the genomic positions of genes encoding candidate nickel/cobalt transporters. The nickel-responsive repressor NikR regulates many nickel uptake systems, though the NikR-binding signal is divergent in various taxonomic groups of bacteria and archaea. B12 riboswitches regulate most of the candidate cobalt transporters in bacteria. The nickel/cobalt transporter genes are often colocalized with genes for nickel-dependent or coenzyme B12 biosynthesis enzymes. Nickel/cobalt transporters of different families, including the previously known NiCoT, UreH, and HupE/UreJ families of secondary systems and the NikABCDE ABC-type transporters, showed a mosaic distribution in prokaryotic genomes. In silico analyses identified CbiMNQO and NikMNQO as the most widespread groups of microbial transporters for cobalt and nickel ions. These unusual uptake systems contain an ABC protein (CbiO or NikO) but lack an extracytoplasmic solute-binding protein. Experimental analysis confirmed metal transport activity for three members of this family and demonstrated significant activity for a basic module (CbiMN) of the Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium transporter.
PMCID: PMC1317602  PMID: 16352848
2.  Molybdoproteomes and evolution of molybdenum utilization 
Journal of molecular biology  2008;379(4):881-899.
The trace element molybdenum (Mo) is utilized in many life forms, and it is a key component of several enzymes involved in nitrogen, sulfur, and carbon metabolism. With the exception of nitrogenase, Mo is bound in proteins to a pterin, thus forming the molybdenum cofactor (Moco) at the catalytic sites of molybdoenzymes. Although a number of molybdoenzymes are well characterized structurally and functionally, evolutionary analyses of Mo utilization are limited. Here, we carried out comparative genomic and phylogenetic analyses to examine the occurrence and evolution of Mo utilization in bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes at the level of (i) Mo transport and Moco utilization trait, and (ii) Mo-dependent enzymes. Our results revealed that most prokaryotes and all higher eukaryotes utilize Mo whereas many unicellular eukaryotes including parasites and most yeasts lost the ability to use this metal. In addition, eukaryotes have fewer molybdoenzyme families than prokaryotes. Dimethylsulfoxide reductase (DMSOR) and sulfite oxidase (SO) families were the most widespread molybdoenzymes in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, respectively. A distant group of the ModABC transport system, was predicted in the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrobaculum. ModE-type regulation of Mo uptake occurred in less than 30% of Moco-utilizing organisms. A link between Mo and selenocysteine utilization in prokaryotes was also identified wherein the selenocysteine trait was largely a subset of the Mo trait, presumably due to formate dehydrogenase, a Mo- and selenium-containing protein. Finally, analysis of environmental conditions and organisms that do or do not depend on Mo revealed that host-associated organisms and organisms with low G+C content tend to reduce their Mo utilization. Overall, our data provide new insights into Mo utilization and show its wide occurrence, yet limited use of this metal in individual organisms in all three domains of life.
PMCID: PMC2670968  PMID: 18485362
molybdenum; molybdopterin; molybdoenzyme; comparative genomics; evolution
3.  A Computational Framework for Proteome-Wide Pursuit and Prediction of Metalloproteins using ICP-MS and MS/MS Data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:64.
Metal-containing proteins comprise a diverse and sizable category within the proteomes of organisms, ranging from proteins that use metals to catalyze reactions to proteins in which metals play key structural roles. Unfortunately, reliably predicting that a protein will contain a specific metal from its amino acid sequence is not currently possible. We recently developed a generally-applicable experimental technique for finding metalloproteins on a genome-wide scale. Applying this metal-directed protein purification approach (ICP-MS and MS/MS based) to the prototypical microbe Pyrococcus furiosus conclusively demonstrated the extent and diversity of the uncharacterized portion of microbial metalloproteomes since a majority of the observed metal peaks could not be assigned to known or predicted metalloproteins. However, even using this technique, it is not technically feasible to purify to homogeneity all metalloproteins in an organism. In order to address these limitations and complement the metal-directed protein purification, we developed a computational infrastructure and statistical methodology to aid in the pursuit and identification of novel metalloproteins.
We demonstrate that our methodology enables predictions of metal-protein interactions using an experimental data set derived from a chromatography fractionation experiment in which 870 proteins and 10 metals were measured over 2,589 fractions. For each of the 10 metals, cobalt, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, lead, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, and zinc, clusters of proteins frequently occurring in metal peaks (of a specific metal) within the fractionation space were defined. This resulted in predictions that there are from 5 undiscovered vanadium- to 13 undiscovered cobalt-containing proteins in Pyrococcus furiosus. Molybdenum and nickel were chosen for additional assessment producing lists of genes predicted to encode metalloproteins or metalloprotein subunits, 22 for nickel including seven from known nickel-proteins, and 20 for molybdenum including two from known molybdo-proteins. The uncharacterized proteins are prime candidates for metal-based purification or recombinant approaches to validate these predictions.
We conclude that the largely uncharacterized extent of native metalloproteomes can be revealed through analysis of the co-occurrence of metals and proteins across a fractionation space. This can significantly impact our understanding of metallobiochemistry, disease mechanisms, and metal toxicity, with implications for bioremediation, medicine and other fields.
PMCID: PMC3058030  PMID: 21356119
4.  “NiCo Buster”: engineering E. coli for fast and efficient capture of cobalt and nickel 
Metal contamination is widespread and results from natural geogenic and constantly increasing anthropogenic sources (mainly mining and extraction activities, electroplating, battery and steel manufacturing or metal finishing). Consequently, there is a growing need for methods to detoxify polluted ecosystems. Industrial wastewater, surface water and ground water need to be decontaminated to alleviate the contamination of soils and sediments and, ultimately, the human food chain. In nuclear power plants, radioactive metals are produced; these metals need to be removed from effluents before they are released into the environment, not only for pollution prevention but also for waste minimization. Many physicochemical methods have been developed for metal removal from aqueous solutions, including chemical coagulation, adsorption, extraction, ion exchange and membrane separation; however, these methods are generally not metal selective. Bacteria, because they contain metal transporters, provide a potentially competitive alternative to the current use of expensive and high-volume ion-exchange resins.
The feasibility of using bacterial biofilters as efficient tools for nickel and cobalt ions specific remediation was investigated. Among the factors susceptible to genetic modification in Escherichia coli, specific efflux and sequestration systems were engineered to improve its metal sequestration abilities. Genomic suppression of the RcnA nickel (Ni) and cobalt (Co) efflux system was combined with the plasmid-controlled expression of a genetically improved version of a specific metallic transporter, NiCoT, which originates from Novosphingobium aromaticivorans. The resulting strain exhibited enhanced nickel (II) and cobalt (II) uptake, with a maximum metal ion accumulation of 6 mg/g bacterial dry weight during 10 min of treatment. A synthetic adherence operon was successfully introduced into the plasmid carrying the improved NiCoT transporter, conferring the ability to form thick biofilm structures, especially when exposed to nickel and cobalt metallic compounds.
This study demonstrates the efficient use of genetic engineering to increase metal sequestration and biofilm formation by E. coli. This method allows Co and Ni contaminants to be sequestered while spatially confining the bacteria to an abiotic support. Biofiltration of nickel (II) and cobalt (II) by immobilized cells is therefore a promising option for treating these contaminants at an industrial scale.
PMCID: PMC4124493  PMID: 25104972
Bioremediation; Cobalt; Nickel; Biofilm; Biofilter; NiCoT; Synthetic biology
5.  Fast Growth Increases the Selective Advantage of a Mutation Arising Recurrently during Evolution under Metal Limitation 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(9):e1000652.
Understanding the evolution of biological systems requires untangling the molecular mechanisms that connect genetic and environmental variations to their physiological consequences. Metal limitation across many environments, ranging from pathogens in the human body to phytoplankton in the oceans, imposes strong selection for improved metal acquisition systems. In this study, we uncovered the genetic and physiological basis of adaptation to metal limitation using experimental populations of Methylobacterium extorquens AM1 evolved in metal-deficient growth media. We identified a transposition mutation arising recurrently in 30 of 32 independent populations that utilized methanol as a carbon source, but not in any of the 8 that utilized only succinate. These parallel insertion events increased expression of a novel transporter system that enhanced cobalt uptake. Such ability ensured the production of vitamin B12, a cobalt-containing cofactor, to sustain two vitamin B12–dependent enzymatic reactions essential to methanol, but not succinate, metabolism. Interestingly, this mutation provided higher selective advantages under genetic backgrounds or incubation temperatures that permit faster growth, indicating growth-rate–dependent epistatic and genotype-by-environment interactions. Our results link beneficial mutations emerging in a metal-limiting environment to their physiological basis in carbon metabolism, suggest that certain molecular features may promote the emergence of parallel mutations, and indicate that the selective advantages of some mutations depend generically upon changes in growth rate that can stem from either genetic or environmental influences.
Author Summary
Effects of mutations can change under different genetic backgrounds or environmental factors, also known as epistasis and genotype-by-environment interactions (G×E), respectively. Though epistasis and G×E are traditionally treated as distinct phenomena, our study of a beneficial mutation highlights their commonality. This mutation resulted from insertion of the same transposable element upstream of a novel cobalt transport system in 30 of 32 independent populations during evolution in metal-limited media. The resulting increased cobalt uptake provided a selective benefit that depended upon two environmental factors: cobalt limitation and growth substrates whose metabolism requires a particular vitamin B12 (which contains cobalt) -dependent biochemical pathway. Furthermore, this mutation exhibited epistatic and G×E interactions with other cellular processes in a generic way, such that its selective advantage increased as cells were able to grow faster. This growth-rate dependence accords with a simple model: the slowest of multiple physiological processes needed for growth exerts the greatest control over an organism's growth rate. It suggests that as growth results from the performance of the entire physiological system, genes or environmental factors that affect distinct physiological processes may thus interact through their convergent effects on growth phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC2732905  PMID: 19763169
6.  Metal-on-Metal Total Hip Resurfacing Arthroplasty 
Executive Summary
The objective of this review was to assess the safety and effectiveness of metal on metal (MOM) hip resurfacing arthroplasty for young patients compared with that of total hip replacement (THR) in the same population.
Clinical Need
Total hip replacement has proved to be very effective for late middle-aged and elderly patients with severe degenerative diseases of the hips. As indications for THR began to include younger patients and those with a more active life style, the longevity of the implant became a concern. Evidence suggests that these patients experience relatively higher rates of early implant failure and the need for revision. The Swedish hip registry, for example, has demonstrated a survival rate in excess of 80% at 20 years for those aged over 65 years, whereas this figure was 33% by 16 years in those aged under 55 years.
Hip resurfacing arthroplasty is a bone-conserving alternative to THR that restores normal joint biomechanics and load transfer. The technique has been used around the world for more than 10 years, specifically in the United Kingdom and other European countries.
The Technology
Metal-on-metal hip resurfacing arthroplasty is an alternative procedure to conventional THR in younger patients. Hip resurfacing arthroplasty is less invasive than THR and addresses the problem of preserving femoral bone stock at the initial operation. This means that future hip revisions are possible with THR if the initial MOM arthroplasty becomes less effective with time in these younger patients. The procedure involves the removal and replacement of the surface of the femoral head with a hollow metal hemisphere, which fits into a metal acetabular cup.
Hip resurfacing arthroplasty is a technically more demanding procedure than is conventional THR. In hip resurfacing, the femoral head is retained, which makes it much more difficult to access the acetabular cup. However, hip resurfacing arthroplasty has several advantages over a conventional THR with a small (28 mm) ball. First, the large femoral head reduces the chance of dislocation, so that rates of dislocation are less than those with conventional THR. Second, the range of motion with hip resurfacing arthroplasty is higher than that achieved with conventional THR.
A variety of MOM hip resurfacing implants are used in clinical practice. Six MOM hip resurfacing implants have been issued licences in Canada.
Review Strategy
A search of electronic bibliographies (OVID Medline, Medline In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, Embase, Cochrane CENTRAL and DSR, INAHTA) was undertaken to identify evidence published from Jan 1, 1997 to October 27, 2005. The search was limited to English-language articles and human studies. The literature search yielded 245 citations. Of these, 11 met inclusion criteria (9 for effectiveness, 2 for safety).
The result of the only reported randomized controlled trial on MOM hip resurfacing arthroplasty could not be included in this assessment, because it used a cemented acetabular component, whereas in the new generation of implants, a cementless acetabular component is used. After omitting this publication, only case series remained.
Summary of Findings
Health Outcomes
The Harris hip score and SF-12 are 2 measures commonly used to report health outcomes in MOM hip resurfacing arthroplasty studies. Other scales used are the Oxford hip score and the University of California Los Angeles hip score.
The case series showed that the mean revision rate of MOM hip resurfacing arthroplasty is 1.5% and the incidence of femoral neck fracture is 0.67%. Across all studies, 2 cases of osteonecrosis were reported. Four studies reported improvement in Harris hip scores. However, only 1 study reported a statistically significant improvement. Three studies reported improvement in SF-12 scores, of which 2 reported a significant improvement. One study reported significant improvement in UCLA hip score. Two studies reported postoperative Oxford hip scores, but no preoperative values were reported.
None of the reviewed studies reported procedure-related deaths. Four studies reported implant survival rates ranging from 94.4% to 99.7% for a follow-up period of 2.8 to 3.5 years. Three studies reported on the range of motion. One reported improvement in all motions including flexion, extension, abduction-adduction, and rotation, and another reported improvement in flexion. Yet another reported improvement in range of motion for flexion abduction-adduction and rotation arc. However, the author reported a decrease in the range of motion in the arc of flexion in patients with Brooker class III or IV heterotopic bone (all patients were men).
Safety of Metal-on-Metal Hip Resurfacing Arthroplasty
There is a concern about metal wear debris and its systemic distribution throughout the body. Detectable metal concentrations in the serum and urine of patients with metal hip implants have been described as early as the 1970s, and this issue is still controversial after 35 years.
Several studies have reported high concentration of cobalt and chromium in serum and/or urine of the patients with metal hip implants. Potential toxicological effects of the elevated metal ions have heightened concerns about safety of MOM bearings. This is of particular concern in young and active patients in whom life expectancy after implantation is long.
Since 1997, 15 studies, including 1 randomized clinical trial, have reported high levels of metal ions after THR with metal implants. Some of these studies have reported higher metal levels in patients with loose implants.
Adverse Biological Effects of Cobalt and Chromium
Because patients who receive a MOM hip arthroplasty are shown to be exposed to high concentrations of metallic ions, the Medical Advisory Secretariat searched the literature for reports of adverse biological effects of cobalt and chromium. Cobalt and chromium make up the major part of the metal articulations; therefore, they are a focus of concern.
Risk of Cancer
To date, only one study has examined the incidence of cancer after MOM and polyethylene on metal total hip arthroplasties. The results were compared to that of general population in Finland. The mean duration of follow-up for MOM arthroplasty was 15.7 years; for polyethylene arthroplasty, it was 12.5 years. The standardized incidence ratio for all cancers in the MOM group was 0.95 (95% CI, 0.79–1.13). In the polyethylene on metal group it was 0.76 (95% CI, 0.68–0.86). The combined standardized incidence ratio for lymphoma and leukemia in the patients who had MOM THR was 1.59 (95% CI, 0.82–2.77). It was 0.59 (95% CI, 0.29–1.05) for the patients who had polyethylene on metal THR. Patients with MOM THR had a significantly higher risk of leukemia. All patients who had leukemia were aged over than 60 years.
Cobalt Cardiotoxicity
Epidemiological Studies of Myocardiopathy of Beer Drinkers
An unusual type of myocardiopathy, characterized by pericardial effusion, elevated hemoglobin concentrations, and congestive heart failure, occurred as an epidemic affecting 48 habitual beer drinkers in Quebec City between 1965 and 1966. This epidemic was directly related the consumption of a popular beer containing cobalt sulfate. The epidemic appeared 1 month after cobalt sulfate was added to the specific brewery, and no further cases were seen a month after this specific chemical was no longer used in making this beer. A beer of the same name is made in Montreal, and the only difference at that time was that the Quebec brand of beer contained about 10 times more cobalt sulphate. Cobalt has been added to some Canadian beers since 1965 to improve the stability of the foam but it has been added in larger breweries only to draught beer. However, in small breweries, such as those in Quebec City, separate batches were not brewed for bottle and draught beer; therefore, cobalt was added to all of the beer processed in this brewery.
In March 1966, a committee was appointed under the chairmanship of the Deputy Minister of Health for Quebec that included members of the department of forensic medicine of Quebec’s Ministry of Justice, epidemiologists, members of Food and Drug Directorate of Ottawa, toxicologists, biomedical researchers, pathologists, and members of provincial police. Epidemiological studies were carried out by the Provincial Ministry of Health and the Quebec City Health Department.
The association between the development of myocardiopathy and the consumption of the particular brand of beer was proven. The mortality rate of this epidemic was 46.1% and those who survived were desperately ill, and recovered only after a struggle for their lives.
Similar cases were seen in Omaha (Nebraska). The epidemic started after a cobalt additive was used in 1 of the beers marketed in Nebraska. Sixty-four patients with the clinical diagnosis of alcoholic myocardiopathy were seen during an 18-month period (1964–1965). Thirty of these patients died. The first patient became ill within 1 month after cobalt was added to the beer, and the last patient was seen within 1 month of withdrawal of cobalt.
A similar epidemic occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Between 1964 and 1967, 42 patients with acute heart failure were admitted to a hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Twenty of these patients were drinking 6 to 30 bottles per day of a particular brand of beer exclusively. The other 14 patients also drank the same brand of beer, but not exclusively. The mortality rate from the acute illness was 18%, but late deaths accounted for a total mortality rate of 43%. Examination of the tissue from these patients revealed markedly abnormal changes in myofibrils (heart muscles), mitochondria, and sarcoplasmic reticulum.
In Belgium, a similar epidemic was reported in 1966, in which, cobalt was used in some Belgian beers. There was a difference in mortality between the Canadian or American epidemic and this series. Only 1 of 24 patients died, 1.5 years after the diagnosis. In March 1965, at an international meeting in Brussels, a new heart disease in chronic beer drinkers was described. This disease consists of massive pericardial effusion, low cardiac output, raised venous pressure, and polycythemia in some cases. This syndrome was thought to be different from the 2 other forms of alcoholic heart disease (beriberi and a form characterized by myocardial fibrosis).
The mystery of the above epidemics as stated by investigators is that the amount of cobalt added to the beer was below the therapeutic doses used for anemia. For example, 24 pints of Quebec brand of beer in Quebec would contain 8 mg of cobalt chloride, whereas an intake of 50 to 100 mg of cobalt as an antianemic agent has been well tolerated. Thus, greater cobalt intake alone does not explain the occurrence of myocardiopathy. It seems that there are individual differences in cobalt toxicity. Other features, like subclinical alcoholic heart disease, deficient diet, and electrolyte imbalance could have been precipitating factors that made these patients susceptible to cobalt’s toxic effects.
In the Omaha epidemic, 60% of the patients had weight loss, anorexia, and occasional vomiting and diarrhea 2 to 6 months before the onset of cardiac symptoms. In the Quebec epidemic, patients lost their appetite 3 to 6 months before the diagnosis of myocardiopathy and developed nausea in the weeks before hospital admission. In the Belgium epidemic, anorexia was one of the most predominant symptoms at the time of diagnosis, and the quality and quantity of food intake was poor. Alcohol has been shown to increase the uptake of intracoronary injected cobalt by 47%. When cobalt enters the cells, calcium exits; this shifts the cobalt to calcium ratio. The increased uptake of cobalt in alcoholic patients may explain the high incidence of cardiomyopathies in beer drinkers’ epidemics.
As all of the above suggest, it may be that prior chronic exposure to alcohol and/or a nutritionally deficient diet may have a marked synergistic effect with the cardiotoxicity of cobalt.
MOM hip resurfacing arthroplasty has been shown to be an effective arthroplasty procedure as tested in younger patients.
However, evidence for effectiveness is based only on 7 case series with short duration of follow-up (2.8–3.5 years). There are no RCTs or other well-controlled studies that compare MOM hip resurfacing with THR.
Revision rates reported in the MOM studies using implants currently licensed in Canada (hybrid systems, uncemented acetabular, and cemented femoral) range from 0.3% to 3.6% for a mean follow-up ranging from 2.8 to 3.5 years.
Fracture of femoral neck is not very common; it occurs in 0.4% to 2.2% of cases (as observed in a short follow-up period).
All the studies that measured health outcomes have reported improvement in Harris Hip and SF-12 scores; 1 study reported significant reduction in pain and improvement in function, and 2 studies reported significant improvement in SF-12 scores. One study reported significant improvement in UCLA Hip scores.
Concerns remain on the potential adverse effects of metal ions. Longer-term follow-up data will help to resolve the inconsistency of findings on adverse effects, including toxicity and carcinogenicity.
Ontario-Based Economic Analysis
The device cost for MOM ranges from $4,300 to $6,000 (Cdn). Traditional hip replacement devices cost about $2,000 (Cdn). Using Ontario Case Costing Initiative data, the total estimated costs for hip resurfacing surgery including physician fees, device fees, follow-up consultation, and postsurgery rehabilitation is about $15,000 (Cdn).
Cost of Total Hip Replacement Surgery in Ontario
MOM hip arthroplasty is generally recommended for patients aged under 55 years because its bone-conserving advantage enables patients to “buy time” and hence helps THRs to last over the lifetime of the patient. In 2004/2005, 15.9% of patients who received THRs were aged 55 years and younger. It is estimated that there are from 600 to 1,000 annual MOM hip arthroplasty surgeries in Canada with an estimated 100 to 150 surgeries in Ontario. Given the increased public awareness of this device, it is forecasted that demand for MOM hip arthroplasty will steadily increase with a conservative estimate of demand rising to 1,400 cases by 2010 (Figure 10). The net budget impact over a 5-year period could be $500,000 to $4.7 million, mainly because of the increasing cost of the device.
Projected Number of Metal-on-Metal Hip Arthroplasty Surgeries in Ontario: to 2010
PMCID: PMC3379532  PMID: 23074495
7.  An ABC Transporter and a TonB Ortholog Contribute to Helicobacter mustelae Nickel and Cobalt Acquisition▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(10):4261-4267.
The genomes of Helicobacter species colonizing the mammalian gastric mucosa (like Helicobacter pylori) contain a large number of genes annotated as iron acquisition genes but only few nickel acquisition genes, which contrasts with the central position of nickel in the urease-mediated acid resistance of these gastric pathogens. In this study we have investigated the predicted iron and nickel acquisition systems of the ferret pathogen Helicobacter mustelae. The expression of the outer membrane protein-encoding frpB2 gene was iron and Fur repressed, whereas the expression of the ABC transporter genes fecD and ceuE was iron and Fur independent. The inactivation of the two tonB genes showed that TonB1 is required for heme utilization, whereas the absence of TonB2 only marginally affected iron-dependent growth but led to reduced cellular nickel content and urease activity. The inactivation of the fecD and ceuE ABC transporter genes did not affect iron levels but resulted in significantly reduced urease activity and cellular nickel content. Surprisingly, the inactivation of the nixA nickel transporter gene affected cellular nickel content and urease activity only when combined with the inactivation of other nickel acquisition genes, like fecD or ceuE. The FecDE ABC transporter is not specific for nickel, since an fecD mutant also showed reduced cellular cobalt levels and increased cobalt resistance. We conclude that the H. mustelae fecDE and ceuE genes encode an ABC transporter involved in nickel and cobalt acquisition, which works independently of the nickel transporter NixA, while TonB2 is required primarily for nickel acquisition, with TonB1 being required for heme utilization.
PMCID: PMC2950367  PMID: 20643857
8.  Evolution of Helicobacter: Acquisition by Gastric Species of Two Histidine-Rich Proteins Essential for Colonization 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(12):e1005312.
Metal acquisition and intracellular trafficking are crucial for all cells and metal ions have been recognized as virulence determinants in bacterial pathogens. Virulence of the human gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori is dependent on nickel, cofactor of two enzymes essential for in vivo colonization, urease and [NiFe] hydrogenase. We found that two small paralogous nickel-binding proteins with high content in Histidine (Hpn and Hpn-2) play a central role in maintaining non-toxic intracellular nickel content and in controlling its intracellular trafficking. Measurements of metal resistance, intracellular nickel contents, urease activities and interactomic analysis were performed. We observed that Hpn acts as a nickel-sequestration protein, while Hpn-2 is not. In vivo, Hpn and Hpn-2 form homo-multimers, interact with each other, Hpn interacts with the UreA urease subunit while Hpn and Hpn-2 interact with the HypAB hydrogenase maturation proteins. In addition, Hpn-2 is directly or indirectly restricting urease activity while Hpn is required for full urease activation. Based on these data, we present a model where Hpn and Hpn-2 participate in a common pathway of controlled nickel transfer to urease. Using bioinformatics and top-down proteomics to identify the predicted proteins, we established that Hpn-2 is only expressed by H. pylori and its closely related species Helicobacter acinonychis. Hpn was detected in every gastric Helicobacter species tested and is absent from the enterohepatic Helicobacter species. Our phylogenomic analysis revealed that Hpn acquisition was concomitant with the specialization of Helicobacter to colonization of the gastric environment and the duplication at the origin of hpn-2 occurred in the common ancestor of H. pylori and H. acinonychis. Finally, Hpn and Hpn-2 were found to be required for colonization of the mouse model by H. pylori. Our data show that during evolution of the Helicobacter genus, acquisition of Hpn and Hpn-2 by gastric Helicobacter species constituted a decisive evolutionary event to allow Helicobacter to colonize the hostile gastric environment, in which no other bacteria persistently thrives. This acquisition was key for the emergence of one of the most successful bacterial pathogens, H. pylori.
Author Summary
Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that persistently colonizes the stomach of half of the human population. Infection by H. pylori is associated with gastritis, peptic ulcer disease and adenocarcinoma. To resist gastric acidity and proliferate in the stomach, H. pylori relies on urease, an enzyme that contains a nickel-metallocenter at its active site. Thus, nickel is a virulence determinant for H. pylori. Our aim is to characterize how H. pylori controls the intracellular nickel concentration to avoid toxicity, which protein partners are involved, and how they impact urease activity and virulence. We characterized two H. pylori proteins, Hpn and Hpn-2 that are rich in Histidine residues. We demonstrated that Hpn is involved in nickel sequestration, that the two proteins interact with each other and that their combined activities participate in a nickel transfer pathway to urease. Hpn is only expressed in gastric Helicobacter species able to colonize the stomach and Hpn-2 is restricted to the H. pylori and its close relative H. acinonychis. We found that both proteins are essential for colonization of a mouse model by H. pylori. We conclude that during evolution, the acquisition of Hpn and Hpn-2 by gastric Helicobacter species was decisive for their capacity to colonize the stomach.
PMCID: PMC4671568  PMID: 26641249
9.  Roles of His-Rich Hpn and Hpn-Like Proteins in Helicobacter pylori Nickel Physiology▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(11):4120-4126.
Individual gene-targeted hpn and hpn-like mutants and a mutant with mutations in both hpn genes were more sensitive to nickel, cobalt, and cadmium toxicity than was the parent strain, with the hpn-like strain showing the most metal sensitivity of the two individual His-rich protein mutants. The mutant strains contained up to eightfold more urease activity than the parent under nickel-deficient conditions, and the parent strain was able to achieve mutant strain activity levels by nickel supplementation. The mutants contained 3- to 4-fold more and the double mutant about 10-fold more Ni associated with their total urease pools, even though all of the strains expressed similar levels of total urease protein. Hydrogenase activities in the mutants were like those in the parent strain; thus, hydrogenase is fully activated under nickel-deficient conditions. The histidine-rich proteins appear to compete with the Ni-dependent urease maturation machinery under low-nickel conditions. Upon lowering the pH of the growth medium from 7.3 to 5, the wild-type urease activity increased threefold, but the activity in the three mutant strains was relatively unaffected. This pH effect was attributed to a nickel storage role for the His-rich proteins. Under low-nickel conditions, the addition of a nickel chelator did not significantly affect the urease activity of the wild type but decreased the activity of all of the mutants, supporting a role for the His-rich proteins as Ni reservoirs. These nickel reservoirs significantly impact the active urease activities achieved. The His-rich proteins play dual roles, as Ni storage and as metal detoxification proteins, depending on the exogenous nickel levels.
PMCID: PMC1913394  PMID: 17384182
10.  Is the Nickel-Dependent Urease Complex of Cryptococcus the Pathogen’s Achilles’ Heel? 
mBio  2013;4(4):e00408-13.
The nitrogen-scavenging enzyme urease has been coopted in a variety of pathogenic organisms as a virulence factor, most notoriously to neutralize stomach acid and establish infection by the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori. The opportunistic fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans also utilizes urease as a virulence factor, only in this case to invade the central nervous system (CNS) via the blood-brain barrier and cause life-threatening meningoencephalitis. A recent study [A. Singh, R. Panting, A. Varma, T. Saijo, K. Waldron, A. Jong, P. Ngamskulrungroj, Y. Chan, J. Rutherford, K. Kwon-Chung, mBio 4(3):e00220-13] genetically and biochemically characterizes the accessory proteins required for successful activation of the urease protein complex, including the essential nickel cofactor. The accessory proteins Ure4, Ure6, and Ure7 are all essential for urease function. Ure7 appears to combine the roles of two bacterial accessory proteins: it incorporates both the GTPase activity and nickel chaperone properties of UreE, a bacterial protein whose homolog is missing in the fungi. An accompanying nickel transporter, Nic1, is responsible for most, but not all, nickel uptake into the fungal cell. Mutants of the core urease protein Ure1, accessory protein Ure7, and transporter Nic1 are all attenuated for invasion of the CNS of mice, and urease activity may directly affect integrity of the tight junction of the endothelial cells of the blood-brain barrier, the network of proteins that limits paracellular permeability. This work highlights the potential of urease, its accessory proteins, and nickel transport as potential chemotherapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3697809  PMID: 23800398
11.  Spectrometric and Voltammetric Analysis of Urease – Nickel Nanoelectrode as an Electrochemical Sensor 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2007;7(7):1238-1255.
Urease is the enzyme catalyzing the hydrolysis of urea into carbon dioxide and ammonia. This enzyme is substrate-specific, which means that the enzyme catalyzes the hydrolysis of urea only. This feature is a basic diagnostic criterion used in the determination of many bacteria species. Most of the methods utilized for detection of urease are based on analysis of its enzyme activity – the hydrolysis of urea. The aim of this work was to detect urease indirectly by spectrometric method and directly by voltammetric methods. As spectrometric method we used is called indophenol assay. The sensitivity of detection itself is not sufficient to analyse the samples without pre-concentration steps. Therefore we utilized adsorptive transfer stripping technique coupled with differential pulse voltammetry to detect urease. The influence of accumulation time, pH of supporting electrolyte and concentration of urease on the enzyme peak height was investigated. Under the optimized experimental conditions (0.2 M acetate buffer pH 4.6 and accumulation time of 120 s) the detection limit of urease evaluated as 3 S/N was 200 ng/ml. The activity of urease enzyme depends on the presence of nickel. Thus the influence of nickel(II) ions on electrochemical response of the enzyme was studied. Based on the results obtained the interaction of nickel(II) ions and urease can be determined using electrochemical methods. Therefore we prepared Ni nanoelectrodes to measure urease. The Ni nanoelectrodes was analysed after the template dissolution by scanning electron microscopy. The results shown vertically aligned Ni nanopillars almost covered the electrode surface, whereas the defect places are minor and insignificant in comparison with total electrode surface. We were able to not only detect urease itself but also to distinguish its native and denatured form.
PMCID: PMC3923183
urease; electrochemical methods; nanotechnology; nanotube; nickel electrode; hanging mercury drop electrode; spectrometry
12.  Factors Required for Activation of Urease as a Virulence Determinant in Cryptococcus neoformans 
mBio  2013;4(3):e00220-13.
Urease in Cryptococcus neoformans plays an important role in fungal dissemination to the brain and causing meningoencephalitis. Although urea is not required for synthesis of apourease encoded by URE1, the available nitrogen source affected the expression of URE1 as well as the level of the enzyme activity. Activation of the apoenzyme requires three accessory proteins, Ure4, Ure6, and Ure7, which are homologs of the bacterial urease accessory proteins UreD, UreF, and UreG, respectively. A yeast two-hybrid assay showed positive interaction of Ure1 with the three accessory proteins encoded by URE4, URE6, and URE7. Metalloproteomic analysis of cryptococcal lysates using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and a biochemical assay of urease activity showed that, as in many other organisms, urease is a metallocentric enzyme that requires nickel transported by Nic1 for its catalytic activity. The Ure7 accessory protein (bacterial UreG homolog) binds nickel likely via its conserved histidine-rich domain and appears to be responsible for the incorporation of Ni2+ into the apourease. Although the cryptococcal genome lacks the bacterial UreE homolog, Ure7 appears to combine the functions of bacterial UreE and UreG, thus making this pathogen more similar to that seen with the plant system. Brain invasion by the ure1, ure7, and nic1 mutant strains that lack urease activity was significantly less effective in a mouse model. This indicated that an activated urease and not the Ure1 protein was responsible for enhancement of brain invasion and that the factors required for urease activation in C. neoformans resemble those of plants more than those of bacteria.
Cryptococcus neoformans is the major fungal agent of meningoencephalitis in humans. Although urease is an important factor for cryptococcal brain invasion, the enzyme activation system has not been studied. We show that urease is a nickel-requiring enzyme whose activity level is influenced by the type of available nitrogen source. C. neoformans contains all the bacterial urease accessory protein homologs and nickel transporters except UreE, a nickel chaperone. Cryptococcal Ure7 (a homolog of UreG) apparently functions as both the bacterial UreG and UreE in activating the Ure1 apoenzyme. The cryptococcal urease accessory proteins Ure4, Ure6, and Ure7 interacted with Ure1 in a yeast two-hybrid assay, and deletion of any one of these not only inactivated the enzyme but also reduced the efficacy of brain invasion. This is the first study showing a holistic picture of urease in fungi, clarifying that urease activity, and not Ure1 protein, contributes to pathogenesis in C. neoformans
PMCID: PMC3663189  PMID: 23653445
13.  Characterization of Bacillus anthracis arginase: effects of pH, temperature, and cell viability on metal preference 
BMC Biochemistry  2008;9:15.
Arginase (RocF) hydrolyzes L-arginine to L-ornithine and urea. While previously characterized arginases have an alkaline pH optimum and require activation with manganese, arginase from Helicobacter pylori is optimally active with cobalt at pH 6. The arginase from Bacillus anthracis is not well characterized; therefore, this arginase was investigated by a variety of strategies and the enzyme was purified.
The rocF gene from B. anthracis was cloned and expressed in E. coli and compared with E. coli expressing H. pylori rocF. In the native organisms B. anthracis arginase was up to 1,000 times more active than H. pylori arginase and displayed remarkable activity in the absence of exogenous metals, although manganese, cobalt, and nickel all improved activity. Optimal B. anthracis arginase activity occurred with nickel at an alkaline pH. Either B. anthracis arginase expressed in E. coli or purified B. anthracis RocF showed similar findings. The B. anthracis arginase expressed in E. coli shifted its metal preference from Ni > Co > Mn when assayed at pH 6 to Ni > Mn > Co at pH 9. Using a viable cell arginase assay, B. anthracis arginase increased dramatically when the cells were grown with manganese, even at final concentrations of <1 μM, whereas B. anthracis grown with cobalt or nickel (≥500 μM) showed no such increase, suggesting existence of a high affinity and specificity manganese transporter.
Unlike other eubacterial arginases, B. anthracis arginase displays unusual metal promiscuity. The unique properties of B. anthracis arginase may allow utilization of a specific metal, depending on the in vivo niches occupied by this organism.
PMCID: PMC2423185  PMID: 18522738
14.  Genome-Wide Transcriptional Response of the Archaeon Thermococcus gammatolerans to Cadmium 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41935.
Thermococcus gammatolerans, the most radioresistant archaeon known to date, is an anaerobic and hyperthermophilic sulfur-reducing organism living in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Knowledge of mechanisms underlying archaeal metal tolerance in such metal-rich ecosystem is still poorly documented. We showed that T. gammatolerans exhibits high resistance to cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co) and zinc (Zn), a weaker tolerance to nickel (Ni), copper (Cu) and arsenate (AsO4) and that cells exposed to 1 mM Cd exhibit a cellular Cd concentration of 67 µM. A time-dependent transcriptomic analysis using microarrays was performed at a non-toxic (100 µM) and a toxic (1 mM) Cd dose. The reliability of microarray data was strengthened by real time RT-PCR validations. Altogether, 114 Cd responsive genes were revealed and a substantial subset of genes is related to metal homeostasis, drug detoxification, re-oxidization of cofactors and ATP production. This first genome-wide expression profiling study of archaeal cells challenged with Cd showed that T. gammatolerans withstands induced stress through pathways observed in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes but also through new and original strategies. T. gammatolerans cells challenged with 1 mM Cd basically promote: 1) the induction of several transporter/permease encoding genes, probably to detoxify the cell; 2) the upregulation of Fe transporters encoding genes to likely compensate Cd damages in iron-containing proteins; 3) the induction of membrane-bound hydrogenase (Mbh) and membrane-bound hydrogenlyase (Mhy2) subunits encoding genes involved in recycling reduced cofactors and/or in proton translocation for energy production. By contrast to other organisms, redox homeostasis genes appear constitutively expressed and only a few genes encoding DNA repair proteins are regulated. We compared the expression of 27 Cd responsive genes in other stress conditions (Zn, Ni, heat shock, γ-rays), and showed that the Cd transcriptional pattern is comparable to other metal stress transcriptional responses (Cd, Zn, Ni) but not to a general stress response.
PMCID: PMC3407056  PMID: 22848664
15.  Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing 
Executive Summary
This report from the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) was intended to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in average risk Canadians and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, this report also includes a systematic literature review of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in these two subgroups.
This evaluation did not set out to determine the serum vitamin D thresholds that might apply to non-bone health outcomes. For bone health outcomes, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support a target serum level above 50 nmol/L. Similarly, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support vitamin D’s effects in non-bone health outcomes, other than falls.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a lipid soluble vitamin that acts as a hormone. It stimulates intestinal calcium absorption and is important in maintaining adequate phosphate levels for bone mineralization, bone growth, and remodelling. It’s also believed to be involved in the regulation of cell growth proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death), as well as modulation of the immune system and other functions. Alone or in combination with calcium, Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the risk of fractures in elderly men (≥ 65 years), postmenopausal women, and the risk of falls in community-dwelling seniors. However, in a comprehensive systematic review, inconsistent results were found concerning the effects of vitamin D in conditions such as cancer, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found concerning the effects of vitamin D in such non-bone health outcomes. Given the uncertainties surrounding the effects of vitamin D in non-bone health related outcomes, it was decided that this evaluation should focus on falls and the effects of vitamin D in bone health and exclusively within average-risk individuals and patients with kidney disease.
Synthesis of vitamin D occurs naturally in the skin through exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight, but it can also be obtained from dietary sources including fortified foods, and supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, fish liver oil, and some types of mushrooms. Since it is usually difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from non-fortified foods, either due to low content or infrequent use, most vitamin D is obtained from fortified foods, exposure to sunlight, and supplements.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets in infants and osteomalacia in adults. Factors believed to be associated with vitamin D deficiency include:
darker skin pigmentation,
winter season,
living at higher latitudes,
skin coverage,
kidney disease,
malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and
genetic factors.
Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency due to either renal losses or decreased synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Health Canada currently recommends that, until the daily recommended intakes (DRI) for vitamin D are updated, Canada’s Food Guide (Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide) should be followed with respect to vitamin D intake. Issued in 2007, the Guide recommends that Canadians consume two cups (500 ml) of fortified milk or fortified soy beverages daily in order to obtain a daily intake of 200 IU. In addition, men and women over the age of 50 should take 400 IU of vitamin D supplements daily. Additional recommendations were made for breastfed infants.
A Canadian survey evaluated the median vitamin D intake derived from diet alone (excluding supplements) among 35,000 Canadians, 10,900 of which were from Ontario. Among Ontarian males ages 9 and up, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake ranged between 196 IU and 272 IU per day. Among females, it varied from 152 IU to 196 IU per day. In boys and girls ages 1 to 3, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake was 248 IU, while among those 4 to 8 years it was 224 IU.
Vitamin D Testing
Two laboratory tests for vitamin D are available, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, referred to as 25(OH)D, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Vitamin D status is assessed by measuring the serum 25(OH)D levels, which can be assayed using radioimmunoassays, competitive protein-binding assays (CPBA), high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). These may yield different results with inter-assay variation reaching up to 25% (at lower serum levels) and intra-assay variation reaching 10%.
The optimal serum concentration of vitamin D has not been established and it may change across different stages of life. Similarly, there is currently no consensus on target serum vitamin D levels. There does, however, appear to be a consensus on the definition of vitamin D deficiency at 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l, which is based on the risk of diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. Higher target serum levels have also been proposed based on subclinical endpoints such as parathyroid hormone (PTH). Therefore, in this report, two conservative target serum levels have been adopted, 25 nmol/L (based on the risk of rickets and osteomalacia), and 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on vitamin D’s interaction with PTH).
Ontario Context
Volume & Cost
The volume of vitamin D tests done in Ontario has been increasing over the past 5 years with a steep increase of 169,000 tests in 2007 to more than 393,400 tests in 2008. The number of tests continues to rise with the projected number of tests for 2009 exceeding 731,000. According to the Ontario Schedule of Benefits, the billing cost of each test is $51.7 for 25(OH)D (L606, 100 LMS units, $0.517/unit) and $77.6 for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (L605, 150 LMS units, $0.517/unit). Province wide, the total annual cost of vitamin D testing has increased from approximately $1.7M in 2004 to over $21.0M in 2008. The projected annual cost for 2009 is approximately $38.8M.
Evidence-Based Analysis
The objective of this report is to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, the report also sought to evaluate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada. The specific research questions addressed were thus:
What is the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in subjects with kidney disease?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the average risk population in Canada?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with kidney disease in Canada?
Clinical utility was defined as the ability to improve bone health outcomes with the focus on the average risk population (excluding those with osteoporosis) and patients with kidney disease.
Literature Search
A literature search was performed on July 17th, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1998 until July 17th, 2009. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Observational studies that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada in the population of interest were included based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria listed below. The baseline values were used in this report in the case of interventional studies that evaluated the effect of vitamin D intake on serum levels. Studies published in grey literature were included if no studies published in the peer-reviewed literature were identified for specific outcomes or subgroups.
Considering that vitamin D status may be affected by factors such as latitude, sun exposure, food fortification, among others, the search focused on prevalence studies published in Canada. In cases where no Canadian prevalence studies were identified, the decision was made to include studies from the United States, given the similar policies in vitamin D food fortification and recommended daily intake.
Inclusion Criteria
Studies published in English
Publications that reported the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada
Studies that included subjects from the general population or with kidney disease
Studies in children or adults
Studies published between January 1998 and July 17th 2009
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that included subjects defined according to a specific disease other than kidney disease
Letters, comments, and editorials
Studies that measured the serum vitamin D levels but did not report the percentage of subjects with serum levels below a given threshold
Outcomes of Interest
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 25 nmol/L
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 40 to 50 nmol/L
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was the metabolite used to assess vitamin D status. Results from adult and children studies were reported separately. Subgroup analyses according to factors that affect serum vitamin D levels (e.g., seasonal effects, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake) were reported if enough information was provided in the studies
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the prevalence studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of the trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Fourteen prevalence studies examining Canadian adults and children met the eligibility criteria. With the exception of one longitudinal study, the studies had a cross-sectional design. Two studies were conducted among Canadian adults with renal disease but none studied Canadian children with renal disease (though three such US studies were included). No systematic reviews or health technology assessments that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada were identified. Two studies were published in grey literature, consisting of a Canadian survey designed to measure serum vitamin D levels and a study in infants presented as an abstract at a conference. Also included were the results of vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories in Ontario between October 2008 and September 2009 (provided by the Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories).
Different threshold levels were used in the studies, thus we reported the percentage of subjects with serum levels of between 25 and 30 nmol/L and between 37.5 and 50 nmol/L. Some studies stratified the results according to factors affecting vitamin D status and two used multivariate models to investigate the effects of these characteristics (including age, season, BMI, vitamin D intake, skin pigmentation, and season) on serum 25(OH)D levels. It’s unclear, however, if these studies were adequately powered for these subgroup analyses.
Study participants generally consisted of healthy, community-dwelling subjects and most excluded individuals with conditions or medications that alter vitamin D or bone metabolism, such as kidney or liver disease. Although the studies were conducted in different parts of Canada, fewer were performed in Northern latitudes, i.e. above 53°N, which is equivalent to the city of Edmonton.
Serum vitamin D levels of < 25 to 30 nmol/L were observed in 0% to 25.5% of the subjects included in five studies; the weighted average was 3.8% (95% CI: 3.0, 4.6). The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that approximately 5% of the subjects had serum levels below 29.5 nmol/L. The results of over 600,000 vitamin D tests performed in Ontarian community laboratories between October 2008 and September 2009 showed that 2.6% of adults (> 18 years) had serum levels < 25 nmol/L.
The prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below 37.5-50 nmol/L reported among studies varied widely, ranging from 8% to 73.6% with a weighted average of 22.5%. The preliminary results of the CHMS survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects had serum levels below 37 to 48 nmol/L. The results of the vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories showed that 10% to 25% of the individuals had serum levels between 39 and 50 nmol/L.
In an attempt to explain this inter-study variation, the study results were stratified according to factors affecting serum vitamin D levels, as summarized below. These results should be interpreted with caution as none were adjusted for other potential confounders. Adequately powered multivariate analyses would be necessary to determine the contribution of risk factors to lower serum 25(OH)D levels.
Seasonal variation
Three adult studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in different seasons observed a trend towards a higher prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L during the winter and spring months, specifically 21% to 39%, compared to 8% to 14% in the summer. The weighted average was 23.6% over the winter/spring months and 9.6% over summer. The difference between the seasons was not statistically significant in one study and not reported in the other two studies.
Skin Pigmentation
Four studies observed a trend toward a higher prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L in subjects with darker skin pigmentation compared to those with lighter skin pigmentation, with weighted averages of 46.8% among adults with darker skin colour and 15.9% among those with fairer skin.
Vitamin D intake and serum levels
Four adult studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels according to vitamin D intake and showed an overall trend toward a lower prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L with higher levels of vitamin D intake. One study observed a dose-response relationship between higher vitamin D intake from supplements, diet (milk), and sun exposure (results not adjusted for other variables). It was observed that subjects taking 50 to 400 IU or > 400 IU of vitamin D per day had a 6% and 3% prevalence of serum vitamin D level < 40 nmol/L, respectively, versus 29% in subjects not on vitamin D supplementation. Similarly, among subjects drinking one or two glasses of milk per day, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was found to be 15%, versus 6% in those who drink more than two glasses of milk per day and 21% among those who do not drink milk. On the other hand, one study observed little variation in serum vitamin D levels during winter according to milk intake, with the proportion of subjects exhibiting vitamin D levels of < 40 nmol/L being 21% among those drinking 0-2 glasses per day, 26% among those drinking > 2 glasses, and 20% among non-milk drinkers.
The overall quality of evidence for the studies conducted among adults was deemed to be low, although it was considered moderate for the subgroups of skin pigmentation and seasonal variation.
Newborn, Children and Adolescents
Five Canadian studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in newborns, children, and adolescents. In four of these, it was found that between 0 and 36% of children exhibited deficiency across age groups with a weighted average of 6.4%. The results of over 28,000 vitamin D tests performed in children 0 to 18 years old in Ontario laboratories (Oct. 2008 to Sept. 2009) showed that 4.4% had serum levels of < 25 nmol/L.
According to two studies, 32% of infants 24 to 30 months old and 35.3% of newborns had serum vitamin D levels of < 50 nmol/L. Two studies of children 2 to 16 years old reported that 24.5% and 34% had serum vitamin D levels below 37.5 to 40 nmol/L. In both studies, older children exhibited a higher prevalence than younger children, with weighted averages 34.4% and 10.3%, respectively. The overall weighted average of the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L among pediatric studies was 25.8%. The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects between 6 and 11 years (N= 435) had serum levels below 50 nmol/L, while for those 12 to 19 years, 25% to 50% exhibited serum vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L.
The effects of season, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake were not explored in Canadian pediatric studies. A Canadian surveillance study did, however, report 104 confirmed cases1 (2.9 cases per 100,000 children) of vitamin D-deficient rickets among Canadian children age 1 to 18 between 2002 and 2004, 57 (55%) of which from Ontario. The highest incidence occurred among children living in the North, i.e., the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. In 92 (89%) cases, skin pigmentation was categorized as intermediate to dark, 98 (94%) had been breastfed, and 25 (24%) were offspring of immigrants to Canada. There were no cases of rickets in children receiving ≥ 400 IU VD supplementation/day.
Overall, the quality of evidence of the studies of children was considered very low.
Kidney Disease
Two studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in Canadian adults with kidney disease. The first included 128 patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3 to 5, 38% of which had serum vitamin D levels of < 37.5 nmol/L (measured between April and July). This is higher than what was reported in Canadian studies of the general population during the summer months (i.e. between 8% and 14%). In the second, which examined 419 subjects who had received a renal transplantation (mean time since transplantation: 7.2 ± 6.4 years), the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was 27.3%. The authors concluded that the prevalence observed in the study population was similar to what is expected in the general population.
No studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in Canadian pediatric patients with kidney disease could be identified, although three such US studies among children with chronic kidney disease stages 1 to 5 were. The mean age varied between 10.7 and 12.5 years in two studies but was not reported in the third. Across all three studies, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below the range of 37.5 to 50 nmol/L varied between 21% and 39%, which is not considerably different from what was observed in studies of healthy Canadian children (24% to 35%).
Overall, the quality of evidence in adults and children with kidney disease was considered very low.
Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing
A high quality comprehensive systematic review published in August 2007 evaluated the association between serum vitamin D levels and different bone health outcomes in different age groups. A total of 72 studies were included. The authors observed that there was a trend towards improvement in some bone health outcomes with higher serum vitamin D levels. Nevertheless, precise thresholds for improved bone health outcomes could not be defined across age groups. Further, no new studies on the association were identified during an updated systematic review on vitamin D published in July 2009.
With regards to non-bone health outcomes, there is no high or even moderate quality evidence that supports the effectiveness of vitamin D in outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality. Even if there is any residual uncertainty, there is no evidence that testing vitamin D levels encourages adherence to Health Canada’s guidelines for vitamin D intake. A normal serum vitamin D threshold required to prevent non-bone health related conditions cannot be resolved until a causal effect or correlation has been demonstrated between vitamin D levels and these conditions. This is as an ongoing research issue around which there is currently too much uncertainty to base any conclusions that would support routine vitamin D testing.
For patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), there is again no high or moderate quality evidence supporting improved outcomes through the use of calcitriol or vitamin D analogs. In the absence of such data, the authors of the guidelines for CKD patients consider it best practice to maintain serum calcium and phosphate at normal levels, while supplementation with active vitamin D should be considered if serum PTH levels are elevated. As previously stated, the authors of guidelines for CKD patients believe that there is not enough evidence to support routine vitamin D [25(OH)D] testing. According to what is stated in the guidelines, decisions regarding the commencement or discontinuation of treatment with calcitriol or vitamin D analogs should be based on serum PTH, calcium, and phosphate levels.
Limitations associated with the evidence of vitamin D testing include ambiguities in the definition of an ‘adequate threshold level’ and both inter- and intra- assay variability. The MAS considers both the lack of a consensus on the target serum vitamin D levels and assay limitations directly affect and undermine the clinical utility of testing. The evidence supporting the clinical utility of vitamin D testing is thus considered to be of very low quality.
Daily vitamin D intake, either through diet or supplementation, should follow Health Canada’s recommendations for healthy individuals of different age groups. For those with medical conditions such as renal disease, liver disease, and malabsorption syndromes, and for those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, physician guidance should be followed with respect to both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
Studies indicate that vitamin D, alone or in combination with calcium, may decrease the risk of fractures and falls among older adults.
There is no high or moderate quality evidence to support the effectiveness of vitamin D in other outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality.
Studies suggest that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canadian adults and children is relatively low (approximately 5%), and between 10% and 25% have serum levels below 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on very low to low grade evidence).
Given the limitations associated with serum vitamin D measurement, ambiguities in the definition of a ‘target serum level’, and the availability of clear guidelines on vitamin D supplementation from Health Canada, vitamin D testing is not warranted for the average risk population.
Health Canada has issued recommendations regarding the adequate daily intake of vitamin D, but current studies suggest that the mean dietary intake is below these recommendations. Accordingly, Health Canada’s guidelines and recommendations should be promoted.
Based on a moderate level of evidence, individuals with darker skin pigmentation appear to have a higher risk of low serum vitamin D levels than those with lighter skin pigmentation and therefore may need to be specially targeted with respect to optimum vitamin D intake. The cause-effect of this association is currently unclear.
Individuals with medical conditions such as renal and liver disease, osteoporosis, and malabsorption syndromes, as well as those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, should follow their physician’s guidance concerning both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
PMCID: PMC3377517  PMID: 23074397
16.  Interplay of metal ions and urease 
Urease, the first enzyme to be crystallized, contains a dinuclear nickel metallocenter that catalyzes the decomposition of urea to produce ammonia, a reaction of great agricultural and medical importance. Several mechanisms of urease catalysis have been proposed on the basis of enzyme crystal structures, model complexes, and computational efforts, but the precise steps in catalysis and the requirement of nickel versus other metals remain unclear. Purified bacterial urease is partially activated via incubation with carbon dioxide plus nickel ions; however, in vitro activation also has been achieved with manganese and cobalt. In vivo activation of most ureases requires accessory proteins that function as nickel metallochaperones and GTP-dependent molecular chaperones or play other roles in the maturation process. In addition, some microorganisms control their levels of urease by metal ion-dependent regulatory mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2745169  PMID: 20046957
17.  Genes Encoding Specific Nickel Transport Systems Flank the Chromosomal Urease Locus of Pathogenic Yersiniae 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(20):5706-5713.
The transition metal nickel is an essential cofactor for a number of bacterial enzymes, one of which is urease. Prior to its incorporation into metalloenzyme active sites, nickel must be imported into the cell. Here, we report identification of two loci corresponding to nickel-specific transport systems in the gram-negative, ureolytic bacterium Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. The loci are located on each side of the chromosomal urease gene cluster ureABCEFGD and have the same orientation as the latter. The yntABCDE locus upstream of the ure genes encodes five predicted products with sequence homology to ATP-binding cassette nickel permeases present in several gram-negative bacteria. The ureH gene, located downstream of ure, encodes a single-component carrier which displays homology to polypeptides of the nickel-cobalt transporter family. Transporters with homology to these two classes are also present (again in proximity to the urease locus) in the other two pathogenic yersiniae, Y. pestis and Y. enterocolitica. An Escherichia coli nikA insertion mutant recovered nickel uptake ability following heterologous complementation with either the ynt or the ureH plasmid-borne gene of Y. pseudotuberculosis, demonstrating that each carrier is necessary and sufficient for nickel transport. Deletion of ynt in Y. pseudotuberculosis almost completely abolished bacterial urease activity, whereas deletion of ureH had no effect. Nevertheless, rates of nickel transport were significantly altered in both ynt and ureH mutants. Furthermore, the ynt ureH double mutant was totally devoid of nickel uptake ability, thus indicating that Ynt and UreH constitute the only routes for nickel entry. Both Ynt and UreH show selectivity for Ni2+ ions. This is the first reported identification of genes coding for both kinds of nickel-specific permeases situated adjacent to the urease gene cluster in the genome of a microorganism.
PMCID: PMC139606  PMID: 12270829
18.  Structure of UreG/UreF/UreH Complex Reveals How Urease Accessory Proteins Facilitate Maturation of Helicobacter pylori Urease 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(10):e1001678.
Structural and biochemical study of urease accessory protein complex provides mechanistic insights into the delivery of nickel to metalloenzyme urease, an enzyme enabling the survival of Helicobacter pylori in the human stomach.
Urease is a metalloenzyme essential for the survival of Helicobacter pylori in acidic gastric environment. Maturation of urease involves carbamylation of Lys219 and insertion of two nickel ions at its active site. This process requires GTP hydrolysis and the formation of a preactivation complex consisting of apo-urease and urease accessory proteins UreF, UreH, and UreG. UreF and UreH form a complex to recruit UreG, which is a SIMIBI class GTPase, to the preactivation complex. We report here the crystal structure of the UreG/UreF/UreH complex, which illustrates how UreF and UreH facilitate dimerization of UreG, and assembles its metal binding site by juxtaposing two invariant Cys66-Pro67-His68 metal binding motif at the interface to form the (UreG/UreF/UreH)2 complex. Interaction studies revealed that addition of nickel and GTP to the UreG/UreF/UreH complex releases a UreG dimer that binds a nickel ion at the dimeric interface. Substitution of Cys66 and His68 with alanine abolishes the formation of the nickel-charged UreG dimer. This nickel-charged UreG dimer can activate urease in vitro in the presence of the UreF/UreH complex. Static light scattering and atomic absorption spectroscopy measurements demonstrated that the nickel-charged UreG dimer, upon GTP hydrolysis, reverts to its monomeric form and releases nickel to urease. Based on our results, we propose a mechanism on how urease accessory proteins facilitate maturation of urease.
Author Summary
Catalytic activities of many important enzymes depend upon metal cofactors. Ensuring each enzyme acquires the proper type of metal cofactor is essential to life. One such example is urease, which is a nickel containing metalloenzyme catalyzing the hydrolysis of urea to ammonia. The survival of Helicobacter pylori, a stomach ulcer–causing pathogen, in the human stomach depends on the ammonia released to neutralize gastric acid. In this study, we revealed the detail mechanism of how urease accessory proteins UreF, UreH, and UreG cooperate to couple GTP hydrolysis to deliver nickel to urease. UreF/UreH complex interacts with two molecules of GTPase UreG and assembles a metal binding site located at the interface between two UreG molecules. Nickel can induce GTP-dependent dimerization of UreG. This nickel-carrying UreG dimer together with UreF, UreH, and urease assemble into a protein complex. Upon stimulation of UreG GTPase activity by bicarbonate, UreG hydrolyses GTP and releases nickel into urease. Other nickel-delivering NTPases share similar properties with UreG; therefore, the nickel delivery mechanism described here is likely universally shared among these proteins.
PMCID: PMC3792862  PMID: 24115911
19.  Molecular evolution of urea amidolyase and urea carboxylase in fungi 
Urea amidolyase breaks down urea into ammonia and carbon dioxide in a two-step process, while another enzyme, urease, does this in a one step-process. Urea amidolyase has been found only in some fungal species among eukaryotes. It contains two major domains: the amidase and urea carboxylase domains. A shorter form of urea amidolyase is known as urea carboxylase and has no amidase domain. Eukaryotic urea carboxylase has been found only in several fungal species and green algae. In order to elucidate the evolutionary origin of urea amidolyase and urea carboxylase, we studied the distribution of urea amidolyase, urea carboxylase, as well as other proteins including urease, across kingdoms.
Among the 64 fungal species we examined, only those in two Ascomycota classes (Sordariomycetes and Saccharomycetes) had the urea amidolyase sequences. Urea carboxylase was found in many but not all of the species in the phylum Basidiomycota and in the subphylum Pezizomycotina (phylum Ascomycota). It was completely absent from the class Saccharomycetes (phylum Ascomycota; subphylum Saccharomycotina). Four Sordariomycetes species we examined had both the urea carboxylase and the urea amidolyase sequences. Phylogenetic analysis showed that these two enzymes appeared to have gone through independent evolution since their bacterial origin. The amidase domain and the urea carboxylase domain sequences from fungal urea amidolyases clustered strongly together with the amidase and urea carboxylase sequences, respectively, from a small number of beta- and gammaproteobacteria. On the other hand, fungal urea carboxylase proteins clustered together with another copy of urea carboxylases distributed broadly among bacteria. The urease proteins were found in all the fungal species examined except for those of the subphylum Saccharomycotina.
We conclude that the urea amidolyase genes currently found only in fungi are the results of a horizontal gene transfer event from beta-, gamma-, or related species of proteobacteria. The event took place before the divergence of the subphyla Pezizomycotina and Saccharomycotina but after the divergence of the subphylum Taphrinomycotina. Urea carboxylase genes currently found in fungi and other limited organisms were also likely derived from another ancestral gene in bacteria. Our study presented another important example showing plastic and opportunistic genome evolution in bacteria and fungi and their evolutionary interplay.
PMCID: PMC3073912  PMID: 21447149
20.  Microbial ureases: significance, regulation, and molecular characterization. 
Microbiological Reviews  1989;53(1):85-108.
Microbial ureases hydrolyze urea to ammonia and carbon dioxide. Urease activity of an infectious microorganism can contribute to the development of urinary stones, pyelonephritis, gastric ulceration, and other diseases. In contrast to these harmful effects, urease activity of ruminal and gastrointestinal microorganisms can benefit both the microbe and host by recycling (thereby conserving) urea nitrogen. Microbial ureases also play an important role in utilization of environmental nitrogenous compounds and urea-based fertilizers. Urease is a high-molecular-weight, multimeric, nickel-containing enzyme. Its cytoplasmic location requires that urea enter the cell for utilization, and in some species energy-dependent urea uptake systems have been detected. Eucaryotic microorganisms possess a homopolymeric urease, analogous to the well-studied plant enzyme composed of six identical subunits. Gram-positive bacteria may also possess homopolymeric ureases, but the evidence for this is not conclusive. In contrast, ureases from gram-negative bacteria studied thus far clearly possess three distinct subunits with Mrs of 65,000 to 73,000 (alpha), 10,000 to 12,000 (beta), and 8,000 to 10,000 (gamma). Tightly bound nickel is present in all ureases and appears to participate in catalysis. Urease genes have been cloned from several species, and nickel-containing recombinant ureases have been characterized. Three structural genes are transcribed on a single messenger ribonucleic acid and translated in the order gamma, beta, and then alpha. In addition to these genes, several other peptides are encoded in the urease operon of some species. The roles for these other genes are not firmly established, but may involve regulation, urea transport, nickel transport, or nickel processing.
PMCID: PMC372718  PMID: 2651866
21.  Phytoplankton responses to atmospheric metal deposition in the coastal and open-ocean Sargasso Sea 
This study investigated the impact of atmospheric metal deposition on natural phytoplankton communities at open-ocean and coastal sites in the Sargasso Sea during the spring bloom. Locally collected aerosols with different metal contents were added to natural phytoplankton assemblages from each site, and changes in nitrate, dissolved metal concentration, and phytoplankton abundance and carbon content were monitored. Addition of aerosol doubled the concentrations of cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), and nickel (Ni) in the incubation water. Over the 3-day experiments, greater drawdown of dissolved metals occurred in the open ocean water, whereas little metal drawdown occurred in the coastal water. Two populations of picoeukaryotic algae and Synechococcus grew in response to aerosol additions in both experiments. Particulate organic carbon increased and was most sensitive to changes in picoeukaryote abundance. Phytoplankton community composition differed depending on the chemistry of the aerosol added. Enrichment with aerosol that had higher metal content led to a 10-fold increase in Synechococcus abundance in the oceanic experiment but not in the coastal experiment. Enrichment of aerosol-derived Co, Mn, and Ni were particularly enhanced in the oceanic experiment, suggesting the Synechococcus population may have been fertilized by these aerosol metals. Cu-binding ligand concentrations were in excess of dissolved Cu in both experiments, and increased with aerosol additions. Bioavailable free hydrated Cu2+ concentrations were below toxicity thresholds throughout both experiments. These experiments show (1) atmospheric deposition contributes biologically important metals to seawater, (2) these metals are consumed over time scales commensurate with cell growth, and (3) growth responses can differ between distinct Synechococcus or eukaryotic algal populations despite their relatively close geographic proximity and taxonomic similarity.
PMCID: PMC3470407  PMID: 23181057
atmospheric metal deposition; colimitation; copper toxicity; incubation; nutrient addition experiment; picoeukaryote; Prochlorococcus; Synechococcus
22.  Conserved Low-Affinity Nickel-Binding Amino Acids Are Essential for the Function of the Nickel Permease NixA of Helicobacter pylori 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(5):1438-1443.
Nickel acquisition is necessary for urease activity, a major virulence factor of the human gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori. The nickel permease NixA of H. pylori is a member of the single-component nickel-cobalt transporter family. To identify functionally relevant amino acids of NixA, single-site exchanges were introduced into NixA via PCR-based mutagenesis. This study investigated one of the recognition motifs for this family in transmembrane segment III and other conserved amino acids, mostly with possible nickel-binding capacities. The mutant alleles were expressed in Escherichia coli, and activity of the altered permeases was analyzed by measuring nickel accumulation and urease activity. Expression was checked by immunoblotting after sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with a NixA-specific antibody. Replacement of Phe-75 and His-79—both part of the characteristic sequence motif—and of Asn-127, Thr-195, and Ser-197 with alanine abolished nickel uptake in the E. coli system. The results were unchanged if these amino acids were replaced with residues more similar to the original amino acid. The phenotype of the null mutants was independent of the culture medium. Mutation of Val-82, Tyr-242, Thr-260, His-181, and His-15 strongly affected uptake activity under nickel limitation on complex Luria-Bertani medium but had little effect in minimal medium. Eight other conserved amino acids (Ser-80, Ser-81, Phe-119, Trp-180, Tyr-183, Trp-244, Pro-249, and Asn-256) were found to be dispensable for the function of NixA. These results show that atypical nickel-binding amino acids play an important function in nickel uptake and that most of the essential amino acids are clustered in conserved motifs.
PMCID: PMC134868  PMID: 11844775
23.  Nickel accumulation in leaves, floral organs and rewards varies by serpentine soil affinity 
AoB Plants  2014;6:plu036.
In this study, we determined whether nickel uptake varies with level of serpentine endemism and quantified nickel concentrations in leaves, pistils, anthers, pollen and nectar in several plant species. Endemic species had the lowest tissue concentrations of nickel. Species indifferent to serpentines incorporated higher concentrations of nickel into reproductive organs relative to leaves, but this was not the case for indicator species and endemics where nickel was similar in these organs. Our findings suggest that endemic species possess the ability to limit nickel uptake into above-ground tissues, particularly in reproductive organs where it may interfere with survival and reproduction.
Serpentine soils are edaphically stressful environments that host many endemic plant species. In particular, serpentine soils are high in several heavy metals (e.g. nickel, cobalt and chromium) and these high heavy metal concentrations are thought, in part, to lead to varying levels of plant adaptation and soil affinities (i.e. endemic vs. non-endemic plant species). It is unclear, however, whether serpentine endemics vs. non-endemics differ with respect to heavy metal uptake into either vegetative or reproductive organs. Here, we use nickel as a model to determine whether plant heavy metal uptake varies with the level of endemism in several non-hyperaccumulating species. Under controlled greenhouse conditions, we grew seven plant species from the Brassicaceae family that vary in their degrees of affinity to serpentine soil from low (indifferent) to medium (indicator) and high (endemic) in soil that was nickel supplemented or not. We quantified nickel concentrations in leaves, pistils, anthers, pollen and nectar. While nickel concentrations did not vary across organs or affinities when grown in control soils, under conditions of nickel supplementation endemic species had the lowest tissue concentrations of nickel, particularly when considering leaves and pistils, compared with indifferent/indicator species. Species indifferent to serpentines incorporated higher concentrations of nickel into reproductive organs relative to leaves, but this was not the case for indicator species and endemics where nickel concentration was similar in these organs. Our findings suggest that endemic species possess the ability to limit nickel uptake into above-ground tissues, particularly in reproductive organs where it may interfere with survival and reproduction. Indifferent species accumulated significantly more nickel into reproductive organs compared with leaves, which may limit their reproductive potential relative to endemic species when growing on serpentine soils. Additional work determining the fitness consequences of these differences will further our understanding of edaphic endemism.
PMCID: PMC4122255  PMID: 24984875
Brassicaceae; endemism; flowers; metal accumulation; nickel; serpentine soil.
24.  Two RND proteins involved in heavy metal efflux in Caulobacter crescentus belong to separate clusters within proteobacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:79.
Heavy metal Resistance-Nodulation-Division (HME-RND) efflux systems help Gram-negative bacteria to keep the intracellular homeostasis under high metal concentrations. These proteins constitute the cytoplasmic membrane channel of the tripartite RND transport systems. Caulobacter crescentus NA1000 possess two HME-RND proteins, and the aim of this work was to determine their involvement in the response to cadmium, zinc, cobalt and nickel, and to analyze the phylogenetic distribution and characteristic signatures of orthologs of these two proteins.
Expression assays of the czrCBA operon showed significant induction in the presence of cadmium and zinc, and moderate induction by cobalt and nickel. The nczCBA operon is highly induced in the presence of nickel and cobalt, moderately induced by zinc and not induced by cadmium. Analysis of the resistance phenotype of mutant strains showed that the ΔczrA strain is highly sensitive to cadmium, zinc and cobalt, but resistant to nickel. The ΔnczA strain and the double mutant strain showed reduced growth in the presence of all metals tested. Phylogenetic analysis of the C. crescentus HME-RND proteins showed that CzrA-like proteins, in contrast to those similar to NczA, are almost exclusively found in the Alphaproteobacteria group, and the characteristic protein signatures of each group were highlighted.
The czrCBA efflux system is involved mainly in response to cadmium and zinc with a secondary role in response to cobalt. The nczCBA efflux system is involved mainly in response to nickel and cobalt, with a secondary role in response to cadmium and zinc. CzrA belongs to the HME2 subfamily, which is almost exclusively found in the Alphaproteobacteria group, as shown by phylogenetic analysis. NczA belongs to the HME1 subfamily which is more widespread among diverse Proteobacteria groups. Each of these subfamilies present distinctive amino acid signatures.
PMCID: PMC3637150  PMID: 23578014
Heavy metal efflux; RND systems; Caulobacter crescentus; Gene expression
25.  Substrate Specificity of Nickel/Cobalt Permeases: Insights from Mutants Altered in Transmembrane Domains I and II 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(13):3569-3577.
HoxN, a high-affinity, nickel-specific permease of Ralstonia eutropha H16, and NhlF, a nickel/cobalt permease of Rhodococcus rhodochrous J1, are structurally related members of the nickel/cobalt transporter (NiCoT) family. These transporters have an eight-helix structure and are characterized by highly conserved segments with polar or charged amino acid residues in transmembrane domains (TMDs) II, III, V, and VI. Two histidine residues in a Ni2+ binding motif, the signature sequence of NiCoTs, in TMD II of HoxN have been shown to be crucial for activity. Replacement of the corresponding His residues in NhlF affected both Co2+ and Ni2+ uptake, demonstrating that NhlF employs a HoxN-like mechanism for transport of the two cations. Multiple alignments of bacterial NiCoT sequences identified a striking correlation between a hydrophobic residue (Val or Phe) in TMD II and a position in the center of TMD I occupied by either an Asn (as in HoxN) or a His (as in NhlF). Introducing an isoleucine residue at the latter position strongly reduced HoxN activity and abolished NhlF activity, suggesting that a Lewis base N-donor moiety is important. The Asn-to-His exchange had no effect on HoxN, whereas the converse replacement reduced NhlF-mediated Ni2+ uptake significantly. Replacement of the entire TMD I of HoxN by the respective NhlF segment resulted in a chimera that transported Ni2+ and Co2+ with low capacity. The Val-to-Phe exchange in TMD II of HoxN led to a considerable rise in Ni2+ uptake capacity and conferred to the variant the ability to transport Co2+. NhlF activity dropped in response to the converse mutation. Our data predict that TMDs I and II in NiCoTs spatially interact to form a critical part of the selectivity filter. As seen for the V64F variant of HoxN, modification of this site can increase the velocity of transport and concomitantly reduce the specificity.
PMCID: PMC135128  PMID: 12057951

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