Hyperthermophilic carbamate kinase stability and anabolic in vitro activity at alkaline pH

James E. Hennessy, Melissa J. Latter, Somayeh Fazelinejad, Amy Philbrook, Daniel M. Bartkus, Hye-Kyung Kim, Hideki Onagi, John G. Oakeshott, Colin Scott, Apostolos Alissandratos*, Christopher J. Easton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


Carbamate kinases catalyze the conversion of carbamate to carbamoyl phosphate, which is readily transformed into other compounds. Carbamate forms spontaneously from ammonia and carbon dioxide in aqueous solutions, so the kinases have potential for sequestrative utilization of the latter compounds. Here, we compare seven carbamate kinases from mesophilic, thermophilic, and hyperthermophilic sources. In addition to the known enzymes from Enterococcus faecalis and Pyrococcus furiosus, the previously unreported enzymes from the hyperthermophiles Thermococcus sibiricus and Thermococcus barophilus, the thermophiles Fervidobacterium nodosum and Thermosipho melanesiensis, and the mesophile Clostridium tetani were all expressed recombinantly, each in high yield. Only the clostridial enzyme did not show catalysis. In direct assays of carbamate kinase activity, the three hyperthermophilic enzymes display higher specific activities at elevated temperatures, greater stability, and remarkable substrate turnover at alkaline pH (9.9 to 11.4). Thermococcus barophilus and Thermococcus sibiricus carbamate kinases were found to be the most active when the enzymes were tested at 80°C, and maintained activity over broad temperature and pH ranges. These robust thermococcal enzymes therefore represent ideal candidates for biotechnological applications involving aqueous ammonia solutions, since nonbuffered 0.0001 to 1.0 M solutions have pH values of approximately 9.8 to 11.8. As proof of concept, here we also show that carbamoyl phosphate produced by the Thermococcus barophilus kinase is efficiently converted in situ to carbamoyl aspartate by aspartate transcarbamoylase from the same source organism. Using acetyl phosphate to simultaneously recycle the kinase cofactor ATP, at pH 9.9 carbamoyl aspartate is produced in high yield and directly from solutions of ammonia, carbon dioxide, and aspartate.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02250-17
Number of pages13
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • ammonia
  • bioremediation
  • carbamate kinase
  • carbamoyl phosphate
  • carbon dioxide
  • hyperthermophiles

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