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Review
, 14, 177-210

No Laughing Matter: The Unmaking of the Greenhouse Gas Dinitrogen Monoxide by Nitrous Oxide Reductase

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Review

No Laughing Matter: The Unmaking of the Greenhouse Gas Dinitrogen Monoxide by Nitrous Oxide Reductase

Lisa K Schneider et al. Met Ions Life Sci.

Abstract

The gas nitrous oxide (N₂O) is generated in a variety of abiotic, biotic, and anthropogenic processes and it has recently been under scrutiny for its role as a greenhouse gas. A single enzyme, nitrous oxide reductase, is known to reduce N₂O to uncritical N₂, in a two-electron reduction process that is catalyzed at two unusual metal centers containing copper. Nitrous oxide reductase is a bacterial metalloprotein from the metabolic pathway of denitrification, and it forms a 130 kDa homodimer in which the two metal sites CuA and CuZ from opposing monomers are brought into close contact to form the active site of the enzyme. CuA is a binuclear, valence-delocalized cluster that accepts and transfers a single electron. The CuA site of nitrous oxide reductase is highly similar to that of respiratory heme-copper oxidases, but in the denitrification enzyme the site additionally undergoes a conformational change on a ligand that is suggested to function as a gate for electron transfer from an external donor protein. CuZ, the tetranuclear active center of nitrous oxide reductase, is isolated under mild and anoxic conditions as a unique [4Cu:2S] cluster. It is easily desulfurylated to yield a [4Cu:S] state termed CuZ (*) that is functionally distinct. The CuZ form of the cluster is catalytically active, while CuZ (*) is inactive as isolated in the [3Cu(1+):1Cu(2+)] state. However, only CuZ (*) can be reduced to an all-cuprous state by sodium dithionite, yielding a form that shows higher activities than CuZ. As the possibility of a similar reductive activation in the periplasm is unconfirmed, the mechanism and the actual functional state of the enzyme remain under debate. Using enzyme from anoxic preparations with CuZ in the [4Cu:2S] state, N2O was shown to bind between the CuA and CuZ sites, suggesting direct electron transfer from CuA to the substrate after its activation by CuZ.

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