Dual organism design cycle reveals small subunit substitutions that improve [NiFe] hydrogenase hydrogen evolution
Yonemoto IT, Matteri CW, Nguyen TA, Smith HO, Weyman PD
Photosynthetic microorganisms that directly channel solar energy to the production of molecular hydrogen are a potential future biofuel system. Building such a system requires installation of a hydrogenase in the photosynthetic organism that is both tolerant to oxygen and capable of hydrogen production. Toward this end, we have identified the [NiFe] hydrogenase from the marine bacterium Alteromonas macleodii "Deep ecotype" that is able to be heterologously expressed in cyanobacteria and has tolerance to partial oxygen. The A. macleodii enzyme shares sequence similarity with the uptake hydrogenases that favor hydrogen uptake activity over hydrogen evolution. To improve hydrogen evolution from the A. macleodii hydrogenase, we examined the three Fe-S clusters found in the small subunit of many [NiFe] uptake hydrogenases that presumably act as a molecular wire to guide electrons to or from the active site of the enzyme. Studies by others altering the medial cluster of a Desulfovibrio fructosovorans hydrogenase from 3Fe-4S to 4Fe-4S resulted in two-fold improved hydrogen evolution activity.