The molecular basis for the action of two natural inactivator proteins, isolated from rice and corn, on a purified assimilatory nitrate reductase has been examined by several physical techniques. Incubation of purified Chlorella nitrate reductase with either rice inactivator protein or corn inactivator protein results in a loss of NADH:nitrate reductase and the associated partial activity, NADH:cytochrome c reductase, but no loss in nitrate-reducing activity with reduced methyl viologen as the electron donor. The molecular weight of the reduced methyl viologen:nitrate reductase species, determined by sedimentation equilibrium in the Beckman airfuge after complete inactivation with rice inactivator protein or with corn inactivator protein, was 595,000 and 283,000, respectively, compared to a molecular weight of 376,000 for the untreated control determined under the same conditions. Two protein peaks were observed after molecular-sieve chromatography on Sephacryl S-300 of nitrate reductase inactivated by corn inactivator protein. The Stokes radii of these fragments were 68 and 24 Å, compared to a value of 81 Å for untreated nitrate reductase. The large fragment contained molybdenum and heme but no flavin, and had nitrate-reducing activity with reduced methyl viologen as electron donor. The small fragment contained FAD but had no NADH:cytochrome c reductase or nitrate-reducing activities. Molecular weights determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate-gel electrophoresis were 67,000 and 28,000 for the large and small fragments, respectively, compared to a subunit molecular weight of 99,000 determined for the untreated control. No change in subunit molecular weight of nitrate reductase after inactivation by rice inactivator protein was observed. These results indicate that rice inactivator protein acts by binding to nitrate reductase. The stoichiometry of binding is 1-2 molecules of rice inactivator protein to one tetrameric molecule of nitrate reductase. Corn inactivator protein, in contrast, acts by cleavage of a Mr 30,000 fragment from nitrate reductase which is associated with FAD. The remaining fragment is a tetramer of Mr 70,000 subunits which retains nitrate-reducing activity and contains molybdenum and heme but has no NADH:dehydrogenase activity. The action of rice inactivator protein was partially prevented by NADH and completely prevented by a combination of NADH and cyanide, while the action of corn inactivator protein was not significantly affected by these effectors.
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