We discovered novel catalytic activities of two atypical NADPH-dependent oxidoreductases (EhNO1/2) from the enteric protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica. EhNO1/2 were previously annotated as the small subunit of glutamate synthase (glutamine:2-oxoglutarate amidotransferase) based on similarity to authentic bacterial homologs. As E. histolytica lacks the large subunit of glutamate synthase, EhNO1/2 were presumed to play an unknown role other than glutamine/glutamate conversion. Transcriptomic and quantitative reverse PCR analyses revealed that supplementation or deprivation of extracellular L-cysteine caused dramatic up- or down-regulation, respectively, of EhNO2, but not EhNO1 expression. Biochemical analysis showed that these FAD-and 2[4Fe-4S]-containing enzymes do not act as glutamate synthases, a conclusion which was supported by phylogenetic analyses. Rather, they catalyze the NADPH-dependent reduction of oxygen to hydrogen peroxide and L-cystine to L-cysteine and also function as ferric and ferredoxin-NADP+ reductases. EhNO1/2 showed notable differences in substrate specificity and catalytic efficiency; EhNO1 had lower Km and higher k cat/Km values for ferric ion and ferredoxin than EhNO2, whereas EhNO2 preferred L-cystine as a substrate. In accordance with these properties, only EhNO1 was observed to physically interact with intrinsic ferredoxin. Interestingly, EhNO1/2 also reduced metronidazole, and E. histolytica transformants overexpressing either of these proteins were more sensitive to metronidazole, suggesting that EhNO1/2 are targets of this anti-amebic drug. To date, this is the first report to demonstrate that small subunit-like proteins of glutamate synthase could play an important role in redox maintenance, L-cysteine/L-cystine homeostasis, iron reduction, and the activation of metronidazole.
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