Phosphonopyruvate hydrolase, a novel bacterial carbon-phosphorus bond cleavage enzyme, was purified to homogeneity by a series of chromatographic steps from cell extracts of a newly isolated environmental strain of Variovorax sp. Pal2. The enzyme was inducible in the presence of phosphonoalanine or phosphonopyruvate; unusually, its expression was independent of the phosphate status of the cell. The native enzyme had a molecular mass of 63 kDa with a subunit mass of 31.2 kDa. Activity of purified phosphonopyruvate hydrolase was Co2+-dependent and showed a pH optimum of 6.7–7.0. The enzyme had a Km of 0.53 mM for its sole substrate, phosphonopyruvate, and was inhibited by the analogues phosphonoformic acid, 3-phosphonopropionic acid, and hydroxymethylphosphonic acid. The nucleotide sequence of the phosphonopyruvate hydrolase structural gene indicated that it is a member of the phosphoenolpyruvate phosphomutase/isocitrate lyase superfamily with 41% identity at the amino acid level to the carbon-to-phosphorus bond-forming enzyme phosphoenolpyruvate phosphomutase from Tetrahymena pyriformis. Thus its apparently ancient evolutionary origins differ from those of each of the two carbon-phosphorus hydrolases that have been reported previously; phosphonoacetaldehyde hydrolase is a member of the haloacetate dehalogenase family, whereas phosphonoacetate hydrolase belongs to the alkaline phosphatase superfamily of zinc-dependent hydrolases. Phosphonopyruvate hydrolase is likely to be of considerable significance in global phosphorus cycling, because phosphonopyruvate is known to be a key intermediate in the formation of all naturally occurring compounds that contain the carbon-phosphorus bond.
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