Mammalian Odorant binding proteins (OBP) are soluble lipocalins produced in the nasal mucosa and in other epithelial tissues of several animal species, where they are supposed to serve as scavengers for small structurally unrelated hydrophobic molecules. These would include odorants and toxic aldehydes like 4-hidroxy-2-nonenal (HNE), which are end products of lipid peroxidation; therefore OBP might physiologically contribute to preserve the integrity of epithelial tissues under oxidative stress conditions by removing toxic compounds from the environment and, eventually, driving them to the appropriate degradative pathways. With the aim of developing a biological model based on a living organism for the investigation of the antioxidant properties of OBP, here we asked if the overexpression of the protein could confer protection from chemical-induced oxidative stress in Escherichia coli. To this aim bacteria were made to overexpress either GCC-bOBP, a redesigned monomeric mutant of bovine OBP, or its amino-terminal 6-histidine-tagged version 6H-GCC-bOBP. After inducing overexpression for four hours, bacterial cells were diluted in fresh culture media, and their growth curves were followed in the presence of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and tert-Butyl hydroperoxide (tBuOOH), two reactive oxygen species whose toxicity is mainly due to lipid peroxidation, and menadione, a redox-cycling drug producing the superoxide ion. GCC-bOBP and 6H-GCC-bOBP were found to protect bacterial cells from the insulting agents H2O2 and tBuOOH but not from menadione. The obtained data led us to hypothesize that the presence of overexpressed OBP may contribute to protect bacterial cells against oxidative stress probably by sequestering toxic compounds locally produced during the first replication cycles by lipid peroxidation, before bacteria activate their appropriate enzyme-based antioxidative mechanisms.
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