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Living on Acetylene. A Primordial Energy Source


Living on Acetylene. A Primordial Energy Source

Felix Ten Brink. Met Ions Life Sci.


The tungsten iron-sulfur enzyme acetylene hydratase catalyzes the conversion of acetylene to acetaldehyde by addition of one water molecule to the C-C triple bond. For a member of the dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) reductase family this is a rather unique reaction, since it does not involve a net electron transfer. The acetylene hydratase from the strictly anaerobic bacterium Pelobacter acetylenicus is so far the only known and characterized acetylene hydratase. With a crystal structure solved at 1.26 Å resolution and several amino acids around the active site exchanged by site-directed mutagenesis, many key features have been explored to understand the function of this novel tungsten enzyme. However, the exact reaction mechanism remains unsolved. Trapped in the reduced W(IV) state, the active site consists of an octahedrally coordinated tungsten ion with a tightly bound water molecule. An aspartate residue in close proximity, forming a short hydrogen bond to the water molecule, was shown to be essential for enzyme activity. The arrangement is completed by a small hydrophobic pocket at the end of an access funnel that is distinct from all other enzymes of the DMSO reductase family.

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