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Volume 1 (2005), Issue 5, Pages 293-301
Research Article

Characterization of an archaeal malic enzyme from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus kodakaraensis KOD1

1Department of Synthetic Chemistry and Biological Chemistry, Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University, Katsura, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 615-8510, Japan
2Department of Bioengineering, Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 4259 Nagatsuta, Midori-ku, Yokohama 226-8501, Japan

Received 9 September 2004; Accepted 16 December 2004

Copyright © 2005 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Although the interconversion between C4 and C3 compounds has an important role in overall metabolism, limited information is available on the properties and regulation of enzymes acting on these metabolites in hyperthermophilic archaea. Malic enzyme is one of the enzymes involved in this interconversion, catalyzing the oxidative decarboxylation of malate to pyruvate as well as the reductive carboxylation coupled with NAD(P)H. This study focused on the enzymatic properties and expression profile of an uncharacterized homolog of malic enzyme identified in the genome of a heterotrophic, hyperthermophilic archaeon T hermococcus kodakaraensis KOD1 (Tk-Mae). The amino acid sequence of Tk-Mae was 52–58% identical to those of malic enzymes from bacteria, whereas the similarities to the eukaryotic homologs were lower. Several catalytically important regions and residues were conserved in the primary structure of Tk-Mae. The recombinant protein, which formed a homodimer, exhibited thermostable malic enzyme activity with strict divalent cation dependency. The enzyme preferred NADP+ rather than NAD+, but did not catalyze the decarboxylation of oxaloacetate, unlike the usual NADP-dependent malic enzymes. The apparent Michaelis constant (Km) of Tk-Mae for malate (16.9 mM) was much larger than those of known enzymes, leading to no strong preference for the reaction direction. Transcription of the gene encoding Tk-Mae and intracellular malic enzyme activity in T. kodakaraensis were constitutively weak, regardless of the growth substrates. Possible roles of Tk-Mae are discussed based on these results and the metabolic pathways of T. kodakaraensis deduced from the genome sequence.