Caister Academic Press

CIMB Abstract

Curr. Issues Mol. Biol. (2004) 6: 159-188.

Molecular Biology of Microbial Hydrogenases

P.M. Vignais and A. Colbeau

Hydrogenases (H2ases) are metalloproteins. The great majority of them contain iron-sulfur clusters and two metal atoms at their active center, either a Ni and an Fe atom, the [NiFe]-H2ases, or two Fe atoms, the [FeFe]-H2ases. Enzymes of these two classes catalyze the reversible oxidation of hydrogen gas (H2 <--> 2 H+ + 2 e-) and play a central role in microbial energy metabolism; in addition to their role in fermentation and H2 respiration, H2ases may interact with membrane-bound electron transport systems in order to maintain redox poise, particularly in some photosynthetic microorganisms such as cyanobacteria. Recent work has revealed that some H2ases, by acting as H2-sensors, participate in the regulation of gene expression and that H2-evolving H2ases, thought to be involved in purely fermentative processes, play a role in membrane-linked energy conservation through the generation of a protonmotive force. The Hmd hydrogenases of some methanogenic archaea constitute a third class of H2ases, characterized by the absence of Fe-S cluster and the presence of an iron-containing cofactor with catalytic properties different from those of [NiFe]- and [FeFe]-H2ases. In this review, we emphasise recent advances that have greatly increased our knowledge of microbial H2ases, their diversity, the structure of their active site, how the metallocenters are synthesized and assembled, how they function, how the synthesis of these enzymes is controlled by external signals, and their potential use in biological H2 production.

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