Overexpression of a mercuric ion binding protein, MerP, from the mercury resistance operon genes of Gram-positive bacterial strain Bacillus megaterium MB1 and from Gram-negative bacterial strain Pseudomonas aeruginosa K-62 was found to enhance the mercury resistance level of Escherichia coli host cells, even though they share only 27.3% identity. Immunoblot analysis showed that MerP (BMerP) from Bacillus could be expressed on the membrane fraction of E. coli cells. Treated with 10 μM Hg2+, a recombinant strain harboring the BMerP gene significantly improved, showing a 27% increase in mercuric ion adsorption capacity, 16% better than that of a Pseudomonas merP gene (PMerP)-harboring strain. While multiple heavy metals co-existed, the mercuric ion adsorption capacity of the BMerP-harboring E. coli was not affected while that of the PMerP-harboring strain decreased. These results suggest that BMerP can act as a bio-adsorbent compartmentalizing the toxic mercuric ion on the cell membrane and enhancing resistance.
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