Toluene-permeabilized Rhodospirillum rubrum cells were used to study activation of and catalysis by the dual-function enzyme ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase. Incubation with CO2 provided as HCO3-, followed by rapid removal of CO2 at 2 degrees C and subsequent incubation at 30 degrees C before assay, enabled a determination of decay rates of the carboxylase and the oxygenase. Half-times at 30 degrees C with 20 mM-Mg2+ were 10.8 and 3.7 min respectively. Additionally, the concentrations of CO2 required for half-maximal activation were 56 and 72 microM for the oxygenase and the carboxylase respectively. After activation and CO2 removal, inactivation of ribulose bisphosphate oxygenase in the presence of 1 mM- or 20mM-Mn2+ was slower than that with the same concentrations of Co2+ or Mg2+. Only the addition of Mg2+ supported ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase activity, as Mn2+, Co2+ and Ni2+ had no effect. A pH increase after activation in the range 6.8-8.0 decreased the stability of the carboxylase but in the range 7.2-8.0 increased the stability of the oxygenase. With regard to catalysis. Km values for ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate4- were 1.5 and 67 microM for the oxygenase and the carboxylase respectively, and 125 microM for O2. Over a broad range of CO2 concentrations in the activation mixture, the pH optima were 7.8 and 8-9.2 for the carboxylase and the oxygenase respectively. The ratio of specific activities was constant (9:1 for the carboxylase/oxygenase) of ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase in toluene-treated Rsp. rubrum. Below concentrations of 10 microM-CO2 in the activation mixture, this ratio increased.

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