The cytoplasmic [NiFe]-hydrogenase I (SHI) of the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus evolves hydrogen gas (H2) from NADPH. It has been previously used for biohydrogen production from sugars using a mixture of enzymes in an in vitro cell-free synthetic pathway. The theoretical yield (12 H2/glucose) is three times greater than microbial fermentation (4 H2/glucose), making the in vitro approach very promising for large scale biohydrogen production. Further development of this process at an industrial scale is limited by the availability of the H2-producing SHI. To overcome the obstacles of the complex biosynthetic and maturation pathway for the [NiFe] site of SHI, the four gene operon encoding the enzyme was overexpressed in P. furiosus and included a polyhistidine affinity tag. The one-step purification resulted in a 50-fold increase in yield compared to the four-step purification procedure for the native enzyme. A trimeric form was also identified that lacked the [NiFe]-catalytic subunit but catalyzed NADPH oxidation with a specific activity similar to that of the tetrameric form. The presence of an active trimeric intermediate confirms the proposed maturation pathway where, in the terminal step, the NiFe-containing catalytic subunit assembles with NADPH-oxidizing trimeric form to give the active holoenzyme.
Keywords: Affinity purification; Enzyme maturation; Hydrogen; Hydrogenase; Pyrococcus.
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