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Respiration and Oxidative Phosphorylation in Treponema pallidum

  • Paul G. Lysko
  • C. D. Cox
Publication Date
Aug 01, 1978


Exogenous and endogenously generated reduced pyridine nucleotides caused marked stimulation of O2 uptake when added to treponemal cell-free extracts, which indicated that terminal electron transport was coupled to the consumption of O2. Oxidation of reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) was shown to correlate stoichiometrically with O2 reduction, suggesting that NADH was being oxidized through a mainstream respiratory chain dehydrogenase. Oxygen evolution in treponemal extracts was observed after the completion of O2 uptake which was stimulated by exogenous NADH and endogenously generated reduced NAD phosphate. Oxygen evolution was inhibited by both cyanide and pyruvate, which was consistent with O2 release from H2O2 by catalase. The addition of exogenous H2O2 to treponemal extracts caused rapid O2 evolution characteristic of a catalase reaction. A spectrophotometric assay was used to measure ATP formation in T. pallidum cell-free extracts that were stimulated with NADH. P/O ratios from 0.5 to 1.1 were calculated from the amounts of ATP formed versus NADH oxidized. Phosphorylating activity was dependent on Pi concentration and was sensitive to cyanide, N, N′-dicyclohexylcarbodiimide, and carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenyl hydrazone. Adenine nucleotide pools of T. pallidum were measured by the firefly luciferin-luciferase assay. Shifts in adenine nucleotide levels upon the addition of NADH to cell-free extracts were impossible to evaluate due to the presence of NAD+ nucleosidase. However, when whole cells, previously incubated under an atmosphere of 95% N2-5% CO2, were sparged with air, ATP and ADP levels increased, while AMP levels decreased. The shift was attributed to both oxidative phosphorylation and to the presence of an adenylate kinase activity. T. pallidum was also found to possess an Mg2+ - and Ca2+ -stimulated ATPase activity which was sensitive to N, N′ -dicyclohexylcarbodiimide. These data indicated a capability for oxidative phosphorylation by T. pallidum.

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