An enzyme which we call carboxylic acid reductase (aldehyde dehydrogenase) seems to be the first which is able to reduce non-activated carboxylic acids to aldehydes at the expense of reduced viologens. There is no further reduction of the aldehydes to the corresponding alcohols. In the presence of oxidized viologens aldehydes can be dehydrogenated to carboxylic acids roughly 20 times faster than the latter are reduced. The specific enzyme activity in crude extracts is about 100 times increased if 10 μM tungstate and a sulphur source in addition to sulphate is given to the growth medium of Clostridium thermoaceticum.
Carboxylic acid reductase seems to be present in two forms. One has an apparent molecular mass of about 240 kDa and is bound to red-Sepharose, whereas, the other, a form of an apparent molecular mass of about 60 kDa, is not bound. SDS gel electrophoresis shows a higher complexity.
The very labile enzyme has been enriched by a factor of about 145 by binding to octyl-Sepharose and further chromatographic separation by red-Sepharose and FPLC using Mono-Q and phenyl-Superose columns. After cell growth in the presence of [185W]tungstate, radioactivity coincides with the two forms of enzyme activity during all purification steps. This is also the case when the enzyme is electrophoretically separated on polyacrylamide slab gels.