Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Barry P. Rosen

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Hiranmoy Bhattacharjee

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Yong Cai

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

John Makemson

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Alejandro Barbieri

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Biochemistry, biophysics, structural biology, toxicology

Date of Defense



Arsenic is a ubiquitous environmental toxic substance. As a consequence of continual exposure to arsenic, nearly every organism, from Escherichia coli to humans have evolved arsenic detoxification pathways. One of the pathways is extrusion of arsenic from inside the cells, thereby conferring resistance. The R773 arsRDABC operon in E. coli encodes an ArsAB efflux pump that confers resistance to arsenite. ArsA is the catalytic subunit of the pump, while ArsB forms the oxyanion conducting pathway. ArsD is an arsenite metallochaperone that binds arsenite and transfers it to ArsA. The interaction of ArsA and ArsD allows for resistance to As(III) at environmental concentrations.

The interaction between ArsA ATPase and ArsD metallochaperone was examined. A quadruple mutant in the arsD gene encoding a K2A/K37A/K62A/K104A ArsD is unable to interact with ArsA. An error-prone mutagenesis approach was used to generate random mutations in the arsA gene that restored interaction with the quadruple arsD mutant in yeast two-hybrid assays. Three such mutants encoding Q56R, F120I and D137V ArsA were able to restore interaction with the quadruple ArsD mutant. Structural models generated by in silico docking suggest that an electrostatic interface favors reversible interaction between ArsA and ArsD. Mutations in ArsA that propagate changes in hydrogen bonding and salt bridges to the ArsA-ArsD interface also affect their interactions.

The second objective was to examine the mechanism of arsenite resistance through methylation and subsequent volatilization. Microbial ArsM (As(III) S-adenosylmethyltransferase) catalyzes the formation of trimethylarsine as the volatile end product. The net result is loss of arsenic from cells. The gene for CrArsM from the eukaryotic green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii was chemically synthesized and expressed in E. coli. The purified protein catalyzed the methylation of arsenite into methyl-, dimethyl- and trimethyl products. Synthetic purified CrArsM was crystallized in an unliganded form. Biochemical and biophysical studies conducted on CrArsM sheds new light on the pathways of biomethylation. While in microbes ArsM detoxifies arsenic, the human homolog, hAS3MT, converts inorganic arsenic into more toxic and carcinogenic forms. An understanding of the enzymatic mechanism of ArsM will be critical in deciphering its parallel roles in arsenic detoxification and carcinogenesis.





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