NADPH oxidases of the Nox family exist in various supergroups of eukaryotes but not in prokaryotes, and play crucial roles in a variety of biological processes, such as host defense, signal transduction, and hormone synthesis. In conjunction with NADPH oxidation, Nox enzymes reduce molecular oxygen to superoxide as a primary product, and this is further converted to various reactive oxygen species. The electron-transferring system in Nox is composed of the C-terminal cytoplasmic region homologous to the prokaryotic (and organelle) enzyme ferredoxin reductase and the N-terminal six transmembrane segments containing two hemes, a structure similar to that of cytochrome b of the mitochondrial bc1 complex. During the course of eukaryote evolution, Nox enzymes have developed regulatory mechanisms, depending on their functions, by inserting a regulatory domain (or motif) into their own sequences or by obtaining a tightly associated protein as a regulatory subunit. For example, one to four Ca2+-binding EF-hand motifs are present at the N-termini in several subfamilies, such as the respiratory burst oxidase homolog (Rboh) subfamily in land plants (the supergroup Plantae), the NoxC subfamily in social amoebae (the Amoebozoa), and the Nox5 and dual oxidase (Duox) subfamilies in animals (the Opisthokonta), whereas an SH3 domain is inserted into the ferredoxin-NADP+ reductase region of two Nox enzymes in Naegleria gruberi, a unicellular organism that belongs to the supergroup Excavata. Members of the Nox1-4 subfamily in animals form a stable heterodimer with the membrane protein p22phox, which functions as a docking site for the SH3 domain-containing regulatory proteins p47phox, p67phox, and p40phox; the small GTPase Rac binds to p67phox (or its homologous protein), which serves as a switch for Nox activation. Similarly, Rac activates the fungal NoxA via binding to the p67phox-like protein Nox regulator (NoxR). In plants, on the other hand, this GTPase directly interacts with the N-terminus of Rboh, leading to superoxide production. Here I describe the regulation of Nox-family oxidases on the basis of three-dimensional structures and evolutionary conservation.
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