Copper- and zinc-containing superoxide dismutases ([Cu,Zn]-SODs) are generally considered almost exclusively eukaryotic enzymes, protecting the cytosol and extracellular compartments of higher organisms from damage by oxygen free-radicals. The recent description of a few examples of bacterial forms of the enzyme, located in the periplasm of different Gram-negative micro-organisms, prompted a re-evaluation of this general perception. A PCR-based approach has been developed and used successfully to identify bacterial genes encoding [Cu,Zn]-SOD in a wide range of important human and animal pathogens - members of the and (HAP) group, and Comparison of [Cu,Zn]-SOD peptide sequences found in and with previously described bacterial proteins and examples of eukaryotic [Cu,Zn]-SOD has shown that the bacterial proteins constitute a distinct family apparently widely separated in evolutionary terms from the eukaryotic examples. The widespread occurrence of [Cu,Zn]-SOD in the periplasm of bacterial pathogens, appropriately located to dismute exogenously derived superoxide radical anions, suggests that this enzyme may play a role in the interactive biology of organisms with their hosts and so contribute to their capacity to cause disease.


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