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1.  Ralstonia eutropha TF93 Is Blocked in Tat-Mediated Protein Export 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(3):581-588.
Ralstonia eutropha (formerly Alcaligenes eutrophus) TF93 is pleiotropically affected in the translocation of redox enzymes synthesized with an N-terminal signal peptide bearing a twin arginine (S/T-R-R-X-F-L-K) motif. Immunoblot analyses showed that the catalytic subunits of the membrane-bound [NiFe] hydrogenase (MBH) and the molybdenum cofactor-binding periplasmic nitrate reductase (Nap) are mislocalized to the cytoplasm and to the inner membrane, respectively. Moreover, physiological studies showed that the copper-containing nitrous oxide reductase (NosZ) was also not translocated to the periplasm in strain TF93. The cellular localization of enzymes exported by the general secretion system was unaffected. The translocation-arrested MBH and Nap proteins were enzymatically active, suggesting that twin-arginine signal peptide-dependent redox enzymes may have their cofactors inserted prior to transmembrane export. The periplasmic destination of MBH, Nap, and NosZ was restored by heterologous expression of Azotobacter chroococcum tatA mobilized into TF93. tatA encodes a bacterial Hcf106-like protein, a component of a novel protein transport system that has been characterized in thylakoids and shown to translocate folded proteins across the membrane.
PMCID: PMC94318  PMID: 10633089
2.  Involvement of hyp Gene Products in Maturation of the H2-Sensing [NiFe] Hydrogenase of Ralstonia eutropha 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(24):7087-7093.
The biosynthesis of [NiFe] hydrogenases is a complex process that requires the function of the Hyp proteins HypA, HypB, HypC, HypD, HypE, HypF, and HypX for assembly of the H2-activating [NiFe] site. In this study we examined the maturation of the regulatory hydrogenase (RH) of Ralstonia eutropha. The RH is a H2-sensing [NiFe] hydrogenase and is required as a constituent of a signal transduction chain for the expression of two energy-linked [NiFe] hydrogenases. Here we demonstrate that the RH regulatory activity was barely affected by mutations in hypA, hypB, hypC, and hypX and was not substantially diminished in hypD- and hypE-deficient strains. The lack of HypF, however, resulted in a 90% decrease of the RH regulatory activity. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and the incorporation of 63Ni into the RH from overproducing cells revealed that the assembly of the [NiFe] active site is dependent on all Hyp functions, with the exception of HypX. We conclude that the entire Hyp apparatus (HypA, HypB, HypC, HypD, HypE, and HypF) is involved in an efficient incorporation of the [NiFe] center into the RH.
PMCID: PMC95556  PMID: 11717266
3.  [NiFe] Hydrogenase from Alteromonas macleodii with Unusual Stability in the Presence of Oxygen and High Temperature ▿ †  
Hydrogenases are enzymes involved in the bioproduction of hydrogen, a clean alternative energy source whose combustion generates water as the only end product. In this article we identified and characterized a [NiFe] hydrogenase from the marine bacterium Alteromonas macleodii “deep ecotype” with unusual stability toward oxygen and high temperature. The A. macleodii hydrogenase (HynSL) can catalyze both H2 evolution and H2 uptake reactions. HynSL was expressed in A. macleodii under aerobic conditions and reached the maximum activity when the cells entered the late exponential phase. The higher level of hydrogenase activity was accompanied by a greater abundance of the HynSL protein in the late-log or stationary phase. The addition of nickel to the growth medium significantly enhanced the hydrogenase activity. Ni treatment affected the level of the protein, but not the mRNA, indicating that the effect of Ni was exerted at the posttranscriptional level. Hydrogenase activity was distributed ∼30% in the membrane fraction and ∼70% in the cytoplasmic fraction. Thus, HynSL appears to be loosely membrane-bound. Partially purified A. macleodii hydrogenase demonstrated extraordinary stability. It retained 84% of its activity after exposure to 80°C for 2 h. After exposure to air for 45 days at 4°C, it retained nearly 100% of its activity when assayed under anaerobic conditions. Its catalytic activity in the presence of O2 was evaluated by the hydrogen-deuterium (H-D) exchange assay. In 1% O2, 20.4% of its H-D exchange activity was retained. The great stability of HynSL makes it a potential candidate for biotechnological applications.
PMCID: PMC3067314  PMID: 21257809
4.  The Soluble NAD+-Reducing [NiFe]-Hydrogenase from Ralstonia eutropha H16 Consists of Six Subunits and Can Be Specifically Activated by NADPH 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(9):3122-3132.
The soluble [NiFe]-hydrogenase (SH) of the facultative lithoautotrophic proteobacterium Ralstonia eutropha H16 has up to now been described as a heterotetrameric enzyme. The purified protein consists of two functionally distinct heterodimeric moieties. The HoxHY dimer represents the hydrogenase module, and the HoxFU dimer constitutes an NADH-dehydrogenase. In the bimodular form, the SH mediates reduction of NAD+ at the expense of H2. We have purified a new high-molecular-weight form of the SH which contains an additional subunit. This extra subunit was identified as the product of hoxI, a member of the SH gene cluster (hoxFUYHWI). Edman degradation, in combination with protein sequencing of the SH high-molecular-weight complex, established a subunit stoichiometry of HoxFUYHI2. Cross-linking experiments indicated that the two HoxI subunits are the closest neighbors. The stability of the hexameric SH depended on the pH and the ionic strength of the buffer. The tetrameric form of the SH can be instantaneously activated with small amounts of NADH but not with NADPH. The hexameric form, however, was also activated by adding small amounts of NADPH. This suggests that HoxI provides a binding domain for NADPH. A specific reaction site for NADPH adds to the list of similarities between the SH and mitochondrial NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (Complex I).
PMCID: PMC1082810  PMID: 15838039
5.  Novel, Oxygen-Insensitive Group 5 [NiFe]-Hydrogenase in Ralstonia eutropha 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(17):5137-5145.
Recently, a novel group of [NiFe]-hydrogenases has been defined that appear to have a great impact in the global hydrogen cycle. This so-called group 5 [NiFe]-hydrogenase is widespread in soil-living actinobacteria and can oxidize molecular hydrogen at atmospheric levels, which suggests a high affinity of the enzyme toward H2. Here, we provide a biochemical characterization of a group 5 hydrogenase from the betaproteobacterium Ralstonia eutropha H16. The hydrogenase was designated an actinobacterial hydrogenase (AH) and is catalytically active, as shown by the in vivo H2 uptake and by activity staining in native gels. However, the enzyme does not sustain autotrophic growth on H2. The AH was purified to homogeneity by affinity chromatography and consists of two subunits with molecular masses of 65 and 37 kDa. Among the electron acceptors tested, nitroblue tetrazolium chloride was reduced by the AH at highest rates. At 30°C and pH 8, the specific activity of the enzyme was 0.3 μmol of H2 per min and mg of protein. However, an unexpectedly high Michaelis constant (Km) for H2 of 3.6 ± 0.5 μM was determined, which is in contrast to the previously proposed low Km of group 5 hydrogenases and makes atmospheric H2 uptake by R. eutropha most unlikely. Amperometric activity measurements revealed that the AH maintains full H2 oxidation activity even at atmospheric oxygen concentrations, showing that the enzyme is insensitive toward O2.
PMCID: PMC3753944  PMID: 23793632
6.  Increasing the metabolic capacity of Escherichia coli for hydrogen production through heterologous expression of the Ralstonia eutropha SH operon 
Fermentative hydrogen production is an attractive means for the sustainable production of this future energy carrier but is hampered by low yields. One possible solution is to create, using metabolic engineering, strains which can bypass the normal metabolic limits to substrate conversion to hydrogen. Escherichia coli can degrade a variety of sugars to hydrogen but can only convert electrons available at the pyruvate node to hydrogen, and is unable to use the electrons available in NADH generated during glycolysis.
Here, the heterologous expression of the soluble [NiFe] hydrogenase from Ralstonia eutropha H16 (the SH hydrogenase) was used to demonstrate the introduction of a pathway capable of deriving substantial hydrogen from the NADH generated by fermentation. Successful expression was demonstrated by in vitro assay of enzyme activity. Moreover, expression of SH restored anaerobic growth on glucose to adhE strains, normally blocked for growth due to the inability to re-oxidize NADH. Measurement of in vivo hydrogen production showed that several metabolically engineered strains were capable of using the SH hydrogenase to derive 2 mol H2 per mol of glucose consumed, close to the theoretical maximum.
Previous introduction of heterologous [NiFe] hydrogenase in E. coli led to NAD(P)H dependent activity, but hydrogen production levels were very low. Here we have shown for the first time substantial in vivo hydrogen production by a heterologously expressed [NiFe] hydrogenase, the soluble NAD-dependent H2ase of R. eutropha (SH hydrogenase). This hydrogenase was able to couple metabolically generated NADH to hydrogen production, thus rescuing an alcohol dehydrogenase (adhE) mutant. This enlarges the range of metabolism available for hydrogen production, thus potentially opening the door to the creation of greatly improved hydrogen production. Strategies for further increasing yields should revolve around making additional NADH available.
PMCID: PMC3765991  PMID: 23977944
Biohydrogen; Metabolic engineering; Heterologous expression; Hydrogen production from NADH
7.  Requirements for Construction of a Functional Hybrid Complex of Photosystem I and [NiFe]-Hydrogenase▿  
The development of cellular systems in which the enzyme hydrogenase is efficiently coupled to the oxygenic photosynthesis apparatus represents an attractive avenue to produce H2 sustainably from light and water. Here we describe the molecular design of the individual components required for the direct coupling of the O2-tolerant membrane-bound hydrogenase (MBH) from Ralstonia eutropha H16 to the acceptor site of photosystem I (PS I) from Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. By genetic engineering, the peripheral subunit PsaE of PS I was fused to the MBH, and the resulting hybrid protein was purified from R. eutropha to apparent homogeneity via two independent affinity chromatographical steps. The catalytically active MBH-PsaE (MBHPsaE) hybrid protein could be isolated only from the cytoplasmic fraction. This was surprising, since the MBH is a substrate of the twin-arginine translocation system and was expected to reside in the periplasm. We conclude that the attachment of the additional PsaE domain to the small, electron-transferring subunit of the MBH completely abolished the export competence of the protein. Activity measurements revealed that the H2 production capacity of the purified MBHPsaE fusion protein was very similar to that of wild-type MBH. In order to analyze the specific interaction of MBHPsaE with PS I, His-tagged PS I lacking the PsaE subunit was purified via Ni-nitrilotriacetic acid affinity and subsequent hydrophobic interaction chromatography. Formation of PS I-hydrogenase supercomplexes was demonstrated by blue native gel electrophoresis. The results indicate a vital prerequisite for the quantitative analysis of the MBHPsaE-PS I complex formation and its light-driven H2 production capacity by means of spectroelectrochemistry.
PMCID: PMC2849213  PMID: 20154103
8.  Nickel requirement for active hydrogenase formation in Alcaligenes eutrophus. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1981;145(3):1144-1149.
The nickel-dependent chemolithoautotrophic growth of Alcaligenes eutrophus is apparently due to a requirement of nickel for active hydrogenase formation. Cells grown heterotrophically with fructose and glycerol revealed a specific activity of soluble and membrane-bound hydrogenase which was severalfold higher than the normal autotrophic level. The omission of nickel from the medium did not affect heterotrophic growth, but the soluble hydrogenase activity was reduced significantly. In the presence of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), almost no hydrogenase activity was detected. The addition of nickel allowed active hydrogenase formation even when EDTA was present. When chloramphenicol was added simultaneously with nickel to an EDTA-containing medium, almost no hydrogenase activity was found. This indicates that nickel ions are involved in a process which requires protein synthesis and not the direct reactivation of a preformed inactive protein. The formation of the membrane-bound hydrogenase also appeared to be nickel dependent. Autotrophic CO2 assimilation did not specifically require nickel ions, since formate was utilized in the presence of EDTA and the activity of ribulosebisphosphate carboxylase was not affected under these conditions.
PMCID: PMC217114  PMID: 6782086
9.  The Maturation Factors HoxR and HoxT Contribute to Oxygen Tolerance of Membrane-Bound [NiFe] Hydrogenase in Ralstonia eutropha H16 ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(10):2487-2497.
The membrane-bound [NiFe] hydrogenase (MBH) of Ralstonia eutropha H16 undergoes a complex maturation process comprising cofactor assembly and incorporation, subunit oligomerization, and finally twin-arginine-dependent membrane translocation. Due to its outstanding O2 and CO tolerance, the MBH is of biotechnological interest and serves as a molecular model for a robust hydrogen catalyst. Adaptation of the enzyme to oxygen exposure has to take into account not only the catalytic reaction but also biosynthesis of the intricate redox cofactors. Here, we report on the role of the MBH-specific accessory proteins HoxR and HoxT, which are key components in MBH maturation at ambient O2 levels. MBH-driven growth on H2 is inhibited or retarded at high O2 partial pressure (pO2) in mutants inactivated in the hoxR and hoxT genes. The ratio of mature and nonmature forms of the MBH small subunit is shifted toward the precursor form in extracts derived from the mutant cells grown at high pO2. Lack of hoxR and hoxT can phenotypically be restored by providing O2-limited growth conditions. Analysis of copurified maturation intermediates leads to the conclusion that the HoxR protein is a constituent of a large transient protein complex, whereas the HoxT protein appears to function at a final stage of MBH maturation. UV-visible spectroscopy of heterodimeric MBH purified from hoxR mutant cells points to alterations of the Fe-S cluster composition. Thus, HoxR may play a role in establishing a specific Fe-S cluster profile, whereas the HoxT protein seems to be beneficial for cofactor stability under aerobic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3133145  PMID: 21441514
10.  Genome-scale reconstruction and in silico analysis of the Ralstonia eutropha H16 for polyhydroxyalkanoate synthesis, lithoautotrophic growth, and 2-methyl citric acid production 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:101.
Ralstonia eutropha H16, found in both soil and water, is a Gram-negative lithoautotrophic bacterium that can utillize CO2 and H2 as its sources of carbon and energy in the absence of organic substrates. R. eutropha H16 can reach high cell densities either under lithoautotrophic or heterotrophic conditions, which makes it suitable for a number of biotechnological applications. It is the best known and most promising producer of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) from various carbon substrates and is an environmentally important bacterium that can degrade aromatic compounds. In order to make R. eutropha H16 a more efficient and robust biofactory, system-wide metabolic engineering to improve its metabolic performance is essential. Thus, it is necessary to analyze its metabolic characteristics systematically and optimize the entire metabolic network at systems level.
We present the lithoautotrophic genome-scale metabolic model of R. eutropha H16 based on the annotated genome with biochemical and physiological information. The stoichiometic model, RehMBEL1391, is composed of 1391 reactions including 229 transport reactions and 1171 metabolites. Constraints-based flux analyses were performed to refine and validate the genome-scale metabolic model under environmental and genetic perturbations. First, the lithoautotrophic growth characteristics of R. eutropha H16 were investigated under varying feeding ratios of gas mixture. Second, the genome-scale metabolic model was used to design the strategies for the production of poly[R-(-)-3hydroxybutyrate] (PHB) under different pH values and carbon/nitrogen source uptake ratios. It was also used to analyze the metabolic characteristics of R. eutropha when the phosphofructokinase gene was expressed. Finally, in silico gene knockout simulations were performed to identify targets for metabolic engineering essential for the production of 2-methylcitric acid in R. eutropha H16.
The genome-scale metabolic model, RehMBEL1391, successfully represented metabolic characteristics of R. eutropha H16 at systems level. The reconstructed genome-scale metabolic model can be employed as an useful tool for understanding its metabolic capabilities, predicting its physiological consequences in response to various environmental and genetic changes, and developing strategies for systems metabolic engineering to improve its metabolic performance.
PMCID: PMC3154180  PMID: 21711532
11.  Nickel affects expression of the nickel-containing hydrogenase of Alcaligenes latus. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1988;170(9):3891-3896.
The effects of nickel on the expression of hydrogenase in the hydrogen-oxidizing bacterium Alcaligenes latus were studied. In the absence of added nickel, both hydrogenase activity, measured as O2-dependent H2 uptake, and hydrogenase protein, measured in a Western immunoblot, were very low compared with the levels in cells induced for hydrogenase in the presence of nickel. Hydrogenase activity and protein levels were dependent on the added nickel concentration and were saturated at 30 nM added Ni2+. The amount of hydrogenase protein in a culture at a given nickel concentration was calculated from the H2 uptake activity of the culture at that Ni2+ concentration. Between 0 and 30 nM added Ni2+, the amount of hydrogenase protein (in nanomoles) was stoichiometric with the amount of added Ni2+. Thus, all of the added Ni2+ could be accounted for in hydrogenase. Between 0 and 50 nM added Ni2+, all the Ni present in the cultures was associated with the cells after 12 h; above 50 nM added Ni2+, some Ni remained in the medium. No other divalent metal cations tested were able to substitute for Ni2+ in the formation of active hydrogenase. We suggest two possible mechanisms for the regulation of hydrogenase activity and protein levels by nickel.
PMCID: PMC211386  PMID: 3045080
12.  Regulation of Uptake Hydrogenase and Effects of Hydrogen Utilization on Gene Expression in Rhodopseudomonas palustris 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(17):6143-6152.
Rhodopseudomonas palustris is a purple, facultatively phototrophic bacterium that uses hydrogen gas as an electron donor for carbon dioxide fixation during photoautotrophic growth or for ammonia synthesis during nitrogen fixation. It also uses hydrogen as an electron supplement to enable the complete assimilation of oxidized carbon compounds, such as malate, into cell material during photoheterotrophic growth. The R. palustris genome predicts a membrane-bound nickel-iron uptake hydrogenase and several regulatory proteins to control hydrogenase synthesis. There is also a novel sensor kinase gene (RPA0981) directly adjacent to the hydrogenase gene cluster. Here we show that the R. palustris regulatory sensor hydrogenase HupUV acts in conjunction with the sensor kinase-response regulator protein pair HoxJ-HoxA to activate hydrogenase expression in response to hydrogen gas. Transcriptome analysis indicated that the HupUV-HoxJA regulatory system also controls the expression of genes encoding a predicted dicarboxylic acid transport system, a putative formate transporter, and a glutamine synthetase. RPA0981 had a small effect in repressing hydrogenase synthesis. We also determined that the two-component system RegS-RegR repressed expression of the uptake hydrogenase, probably in response to changes in intracellular redox status. Transcriptome analysis indicated that about 30 genes were differentially expressed in R. palustris cells that utilized hydrogen when growing photoheterotrophically on malate under nitrogen-fixing conditions compared to a mutant strain that lacked uptake hydrogenase. From this it appears that the recycling of reductant in the form of hydrogen does not have extensive nonspecific effects on gene expression in R. palustris.
PMCID: PMC1595397  PMID: 16923881
13.  Hydrogen-driven asymmetric reduction of hydroxyacetone to (R)-1,2-propanediol by Ralstonia eutropha transformant expressing alcohol dehydrogenase from Kluyveromyces lactis 
Conversion of industrial processes to more nature-friendly modes is a crucial subject for achieving sustainable development. Utilization of hydrogen-oxidation reactions by hydrogenase as a driving force of bioprocess reaction can be an environmentally ideal method because the reaction creates no pollutants. We expressed NAD-dependent alcohol dehydrogenase from Kluyveromyces lactis in a hydrogen-oxidizing bacterium: Ralstonia eutropha. This is the first report of hydrogen-driven in vivo coupling reaction of the alcohol dehydrogenase and indigenous soluble NAD-reducing hydrogenase. Asymmetric reduction of hydroxyacetone to (R)-1,2-propanediol, which is a commercial building block for antibacterial agents, was performed using the transformant as the microbial cell catalyst.
The two enzymes coupled in vitro in vials without a marked decrease of reactivity during the 20 hr reaction because of the hydrogenase reaction, which generates no by-product that affects enzymes. Alcohol dehydrogenase was expressed functionally in R. eutropha in an activity level equivalent to that of indigenous NAD-reducing hydrogenase under the hydrogenase promoter. The hydrogen-driven in vivo coupling reaction proceeded only by the transformant cell without exogenous addition of a cofactor. The decrease of reaction velocity at higher concentration of hydroxyacetone was markedly reduced by application of an in vivo coupling system. Production of (R)-1,2-propanediol (99.8% e.e.) reached 67.7 g/l in 76 hr with almost a constant rate using a jar fermenter. The reaction velocity under 10% PH2 was almost equivalent to that under 100% hydrogen, indicating the availability of crude hydrogen gas from various sources. The in vivo coupling system enabled cell-recycling as catalysts.
Asymmetric reduction of hydroxyacetone by a coupling reaction of the two enzymes continued in both in vitro and in vivo systems in the presence of hydrogen. The in vivo reaction system using R. eutropha transformant expressing heterologous alcohol dehydrogenase showed advantages for practical usage relative to the in vitro coupling system. The results suggest a hopeful perspective of the hydrogen-driven bioprocess as an environmentally outstanding method to achieve industrial green innovation. Hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria can be useful hosts for the development of hydrogen-driven microbial cell factories.
PMCID: PMC3552938  PMID: 23305396
Hydrogen-driven bioconversion; Hydrogen-driven cell factory; NAD-reducing soluble hydrogenase; Alcohol dehydrogenase; Cofactor regeneration; (R)-1,2-propanediol; Hydrogen-oxidizing bacterium; Ralstonia eutropha
14.  Genetic determinants of a nickel-specific transport system are part of the plasmid-encoded hydrogenase gene cluster in Alcaligenes eutrophus. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1989;171(3):1340-1345.
Nickel-deficient (Nic-) mutants of Alcaligenes eutrophus requiring high levels of nickel ions for autotrophic growth with hydrogen were characterized. The Nic- mutants carried defined deletions in the hydrogenase gene cluster of the indigenous pHG megaplasmid. Nickel deficiency correlated with a low level of the nickel-containing hydrogenase activity, a slow rate of nickel transport, and reduced activity of urease. The Nic+ phenotype was restored by a cloned DNA sequence (hoxN) of a megaplasmid pHG1 DNA library of A. eutrophus H16. hoxN is part of the hydrogenase gene cluster. The nickel requirement of Nic- mutants was enhanced by increasing the concentration of magnesium. This suggests that the Nic- mutants are impaired in the nickel-specific transport system and thus depend on the second transport activity which normally mediates the uptake of magnesium.
PMCID: PMC209751  PMID: 2646280
15.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic analysis of the [NiFe]-hydrogenase maturation factor HypF1 from Ralstonia eutropha H16 
The hydrogenase maturation factor HypF1 from R. eutropha H16 was successfully crystallized and data sets were collected to a maximum resolution of 1.65 Å.
The hydrogenase maturation factor HypF1 is a truncated but functional version of the HypF protein. HypF is known to be involved in the supply of the CN− ligands of the active site of [NiFe]-hydrogenases, utilizing carbamoyl phosphate as a substrate. The first crystallization and preliminary X-ray studies of HypF1 from Ralstonia eutropha H16 are reported here. Crystals of HypF1 (394 amino acids, 40.7 kDa) were obtained by the sitting-drop vapour-diffusion technique using sodium formate as a precipitant. The crystals belonged to space group I222, with unit-cell parameters a = 79.7, b = 91.6, c = 107.2 Å. Complete X-ray diffraction data sets were collected at 100 K from native crystals and from a platinum derivative to a maximum resolution of 1.65 Å.
PMCID: PMC2852342  PMID: 20383020
hydrogenases; maturation; cyanide ligands; HypF1; NiFe cofactor
16.  Autotrophic Production of Stable-Isotope-Labeled Arginine in Ralstonia eutropha Strain H16 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(22):7884-7890.
With the aim of improving industrial-scale production of stable-isotope (SI)-labeled arginine, we have developed a system for the heterologous production of the arginine-containing polymer cyanophycin in recombinant strains of Ralstonia eutropha under lithoautotrophic growth conditions. We constructed an expression plasmid based on the cyanophycin synthetase gene (cphA) of Synechocystis sp. strain PCC6308 under the control of the strong PcbbL promoter of the R. eutropha H16 cbbc operon (coding for autotrophic CO2 fixation). In batch cultures growing on H2 and CO2 as sole sources of energy and carbon, respectively, the cyanophycin content of cells reached 5.5% of cell dry weight (CDW). However, in the absence of selection (i.e., in antibiotic-free medium), plasmid loss led to a substantial reduction in yield. We therefore designed a novel addiction system suitable for use under lithoautotrophic conditions. Based on the hydrogenase transcription factor HoxA, this system mediated stabilized expression of cphA during lithoautotrophic cultivation without the need for antibiotics. The maximum yield of cyanophycin was 7.1% of CDW. To test the labeling efficiency of our expression system under actual production conditions, cells were grown in 10-liter-scale fermentations fed with 13CO2 and 15NH4Cl, and the 13C/15N-labeled cyanophycin was subsequently extracted by treatment with 0.1 M HCl; 2.5 to 5 g of [13C/15N]arginine was obtained per fed-batch fermentation, corresponding to isotope enrichments of 98.8% to 99.4%.
PMCID: PMC3485953  PMID: 22941075
17.  Transposon Mutagenesis in Purple Sulfur Photosynthetic Bacteria: Identification of hypF, Encoding a Protein Capable of Processing [NiFe] Hydrogenases in α, β, and γ Subdivisions of the Proteobacteria 
A random transposon-based mutagenesis system was optimized for the purple sulfur phototrophic bacterium Thiocapsa roseopersicina BBS. Screening for hydrogenase-deficient phenotypes resulted in the isolation of six independent mutants in a mini-Tn5 library. One of the mutations was in a gene showing high amino acid sequence similarity to HypF proteins in other organisms. Inactivation of hydrogen uptake activity in the hypF-deficient mutant resulted in a dramatic increase in the hydrogen evolution capacity of T. roseopersicina under nitrogen-fixing conditions. This mutant is therefore a promising candidate for use in practical biohydrogen-producing systems. The reconstructed hypF gene was able to complement the hypF-deficient mutant of T. roseopersicina BBS. Heterologous complementation experiments, using hypF mutant strains of T. roseopersicina, Escherichia coli, and Ralstonia eutropha and various hypF genes, were performed. They were successful in all of the cases tested, although for E. coli, the regulatory region of the foreign gene had to be replaced in order to achieve partial complementation. RT-PCR data suggested that HypF has no effect on the transcriptional regulation of the structural genes of hydrogenases in this organism.
PMCID: PMC92897  PMID: 11375153
18.  Functional Analysis by Site-Directed Mutagenesis of the NAD+-Reducing Hydrogenase from Ralstonia eutropha 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(22):6280-6288.
The tetrameric cytoplasmic [NiFe] hydrogenase (SH) of Ralstonia eutropha couples the oxidation of hydrogen to the reduction of NAD+ under aerobic conditions. In the catalytic subunit HoxH, all six conserved motifs surrounding the [NiFe] site are present. Five of these motifs were altered by site-directed mutagenesis in order to dissect the molecular mechanism of hydrogen activation. Based on phenotypic characterizations, 27 mutants were grouped into four different classes. Mutants of the major class, class I, failed to grow on hydrogen and were devoid of H2-oxidizing activity. In one of these isolates (HoxH I64A), H2 binding was impaired. Class II mutants revealed a high D2/H+ exchange rate relative to a low H2-oxidizing activity. A representative (HoxH H16L) displayed D2/H+ exchange but had lost electron acceptor-reducing activity. Both activities were equally affected in class III mutants. Mutants forming class IV showed a particularly interesting phenotype. They displayed O2-sensitive growth on hydrogen due to an O2-sensitive SH protein.
PMCID: PMC151951  PMID: 12399498
19.  Nickel in the catalytically active hydrogenase of Alcaligenes eutrophus. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1982;152(1):42-48.
Nickel is a constituent of soluble and particulate hydrogenase of Alcaligenes eutrophus. Incorporation of 63Ni2+ revealed that almost the total nickel taken up by the cells was bound to the protein. Chromatography of a crude extract on diethylaminoethyl cellulose demonstrated an association of 63Ni2+ with soluble and particulate hydrogenase, supported by further analysis like polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Unspecific binding of 63Ni2+ to the protein was excluded by comparison with a mutant extract free of hydrogenase protein. X-ray fluorescence analysis of the homogeneous soluble hydrogenase indicated the presence of 2 mol of nickel per mol of enzyme, whereas the amount of nickel determined by incorporation of 63Ni2+ was calculated to be approximately 1 mol/mol of enzyme. Cells grown under nickel limitation contained catalytically inactive, but serologically active, soluble and particulate hydrogenase. The immunochemical reactions were only partially identical with the enzyme from nickel-cultivated cells indicating a structural modification of the proteins in the absence of nickel. It is concluded that nickel is essential for the catalytic activity of hydrogenase and not involved as a regulatory component in the synthesis of this enzyme.
PMCID: PMC221372  PMID: 6749813
20.  Alcaligenes eutrophus CH34 is a facultative chemolithotroph with plasmid-bound resistance to heavy metals. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1985;162(1):328-334.
Alcaligenes eutrophus strain CH34, which was isolated as a bacterium resistant to cobalt, zinc, and cadmium ions, shares with A. eutrophus strain H16 the ability to grow lithoautotrophically on molecular hydrogen, to form a cytoplasmic NAD-reducing and a membrane-bound hydrogenase, and most metabolic attributes; however, it does not grow on fructose. Strain CH34 contains two plasmids, pMOL28 (163 kilobases) specifying nickel, mercury, and cobalt resistance and pMOL30 (238 kilobases) specifying zinc, cadmium, mercury, and cobalt resistance. The plasmids are self-transmissible in homologous matings, but at low frequencies. The transfer frequency was strongly increased with IncP1 plasmids RP4 and pUZ8 as helper plasmids. The phenotypes of the wild type, cured strains, and transconjugants are characterized by the following MICs (Micromolar) in strains with the indicated phenotypes: Nic+, 2.5; Nic-, 0.6; Cob+A, 5.0; Cob+B, 20.0; Cob-, less than 0.07; Zin+, 12.0; Zin-, 0.6; Cad+, 2.5; and Cad-, 0.6. Plasmid-free cells of strain CH34 are still able to grow lithoautotrophically and to form both hydrogenases, indicating that the hydrogenase genes are located on the chromosome, in contrast to the Hox structural genes of strain H16, which are located on the megaplasmid pHG1 (450 kilobases).
PMCID: PMC218993  PMID: 3884593
21.  The Alcaligenes eutrophus membrane-bound hydrogenase gene locus encodes functions involved in maturation and electron transport coupling. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(15):4522-4529.
Alcaligenes eutrophus H16 produces two [NiFe] hydrogenases which catalyze the oxidation of hydrogen and enable the organism to utilize H2 as the sole energy source. The genes (hoxK and hoxG) for the heterodimeric, membrane-bound hydrogenase (MBH) are located adjacent to a series of eight accessory genes (hoxZ, hoxM, hoxL, hoxO, hoxQ, hoxR, hoxT, and hoxV). In the present study, we generated a set of isogenic mutants with in-frame deletions in the two structural genes and in each of the eight accessory genes. The resulting mutants can be grouped into two classes on the basis of the H2-oxidizing activity of the MBH. Class I mutants (hoxKdelta, hoxGdelta, hoxMdelta, hoxOdelta, and hoxQdelta) were totally devoid of MBH-mediated, H2-oxidizing activity. The hoxM deletion strain was the only mutant in our collection which was completely blocked in carboxy-terminal processing of large subunit HoxG, indicating that hoxM encodes a specific protease. Class II mutants (hoxZdelta, hoxLdelta, hoxRdelta, hoxTdelta, and hoxVdelta) contained residual amounts of MBH activity in the membrane fraction of the extracts. Immunochemical analysis and 63Ni incorporation experiments revealed that the mutations affect various steps in MBH maturation. A lesion in hoxZ led to the production of a soluble MBH which was highly active with redox dye.
PMCID: PMC178219  PMID: 8755880
22.  An Innovative Cloning Platform Enables Large-Scale Production and Maturation of an Oxygen-Tolerant [NiFe]-Hydrogenase from Cupriavidus necator in Escherichia coli 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68812.
Expression of multiple heterologous genes in a dedicated host is a prerequisite for approaches in synthetic biology, spanning from the production of recombinant multiprotein complexes to the transfer of tailor-made metabolic pathways. Such attempts are often exacerbated, due in most cases to a lack of proper directional, robust and readily accessible genetic tools. Here, we introduce an innovative system for cloning and expression of multiple genes in Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3). Using the novel methodology, genes are equipped with individual promoters and terminators and subsequently assembled. The resulting multiple gene cassettes may either be placed in one vector or alternatively distributed among a set of compatible plasmids. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the developed tool by production and maturation of the NAD+reducing soluble [NiFe]-hydrogenase (SH) from Cupriavidus necator H16 (formerly Ralstonia eutropha H16) in E. coli BL21Star™ (DE3). The SH (encoded in hoxFUYHI) was successfully matured by co-expression of a dedicated set of auxiliary genes, comprising seven hyp genes (hypC1D1E1A2B2F2X) along with hoxW, which encodes a specific endopeptidase. Deletion of genes involved in SH maturation reduced maturation efficiency substantially. Further addition of hoxN1, encoding a high-affinity nickel permease from C. necator, considerably increased maturation efficiency in E. coli. Carefully balanced growth conditions enabled hydrogenase production at high cell-densities, scoring mg·(Liter culture)−1 yields of purified functional SH. Specific activities of up to 7.2±1.15 U·mg−1 were obtained in cell-free extracts, which is in the range of the highest activities ever determined in C. necator extracts. The recombinant enzyme was isolated in equal purity and stability as previously achieved with the native form, yielding ultrapure preparations with anaerobic specific activities of up to 230 U·mg−1. Owing to the combinatorial power exhibited by the presented cloning platform, the system might represent an important step towards new routes in synthetic biology.
PMCID: PMC3702609  PMID: 23861944
23.  Regulation of the cnr Cobalt and Nickel Resistance Determinant of Ralstonia eutropha (Alcaligenes eutrophus) CH34 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(5):1399-1409.
The linked resistance to nickel and cobalt of Ralstonia eutropha-like strain CH34 (Alcaligenes eutrophus CH34) is encoded by the cnr operon, which is localized on the megaplasmid pMOL28. The regulatory genes cnrYXH have been cloned, overexpressed, and purified in Escherichia coli. CnrY fractionated as a 10.7-kDa protein in in vitro translation assays. CnrX, a periplasmic protein of 16.5 kDa, was overproduced and purified as a histidine-tagged fusion protein in E. coli. His-CnrX was found to posses a secondary structure content rich in alpha-helical and beta-sheet structures. CnrH, a sigma factor of the extracytoplasmic function family, was purified as an N-terminally histidine-tagged fusion. In gel shift mobility assays, His-CnrH, in the presence of E. coli core RNA polymerase enzyme, could retard at least two different promoter DNA targets, cnrYp and cnrHp, localized within the cnrYXH locus. These promoters and their transcription start sites were confirmed by primer extension. Purified His-CnrX did not inhibit the DNA-binding activity of His-CnrH and is therefore unlikely to be an anti-sigma factor, as previously hypothesized (EMBL M91650 description entry). To study the transcriptional response of the regulatory locus to metals and to probe promoter regions, transcriptional fusions were constructed between fragments of cnrYXH and the luxCDABE, luciferase reporter genes. Nickel and cobalt specifically induced the cnrYXH-luxCDABE fusion at optimal concentrations of 0.3 mM Ni2+ and 2.0 mM Co2+ in a noncomplexing medium for metals. The two promoter regions PY (upstream cnrY) and PH (upstream cnrH) were probed and characterized using this vector and were found to control the nickel-inducible regulatory response of the cnr operon. The cnrHp promoter was responsible for full transcription of the cnrCBA structural resistance genes, while the cnrYp promoter was necessary to obtain metal-inducible transcription from the cnrHp promoter. The zinc resistance phenotype (ZinB) of a spontaneous cnr mutant strain, AE963, was investigated and could be attributed to an insertion of IS1087, a member of the IS2 family of insertion elements, within the cnrY gene.
PMCID: PMC94429  PMID: 10671464
24.  Requirements for Heterologous Production of a Complex Metalloenzyme: the Membrane-Bound [NiFe] Hydrogenase 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(18):6590-6595.
By taking advantage of the tightly clustered genes for the membrane-bound [NiFe] hydrogenase of Ralstonia eutropha H16, broad-host-range recombinant plasmids were constructed carrying the entire membrane-bound hydrogenase (MBH) operon encompassing 21 genes. We demonstrate that the complex MBH biosynthetic apparatus is actively produced in hydrogenase-free hosts yielding fully assembled and functional MBH protein.
PMCID: PMC1236620  PMID: 16159796
25.  Interaction between the H2 Sensor HupUV and the Histidine Kinase HupT Controls HupSL Hydrogenase Synthesis in Rhodobacter capsulatus 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(24):7111-7119.
The photosynthetic bacterium Rhodobacter capsulatus contains two [NiFe]hydrogenases: an energy-generating hydrogenase, HupSL, and a regulatory hydrogenase, HupUV. The synthesis of HupSL is specifically activated by H2 through a signal transduction cascade comprising three proteins: the H2-sensing HupUV protein, the histidine kinase HupT, and the transcriptional regulator HupR. Whereas a phosphotransfer between HupT and HupR was previously demonstrated, interaction between HupUV and HupT was only hypothesized based on in vivo analyses of mutant phenotypes. To visualize the in vitro interaction between HupUV and HupT proteins, a six-His (His6)-HupU fusion protein and the HupV protein were coproduced by using a homologous expression system. The two proteins copurified as a His6-HupUHupV complex present in dimeric and tetrameric forms, both of which had H2 uptake activity. We demonstrated that HupT and HupUV interact and form stable complexes that could be separated on a native gel. Interaction was also monitored with surface plasmon resonance technology and was shown to be insensitive to salt concentration and pH changes, suggesting that the interactions involve hydrophobic residues. As expected, H2 affects the interaction between HupUV and HupT, leading to a weakening of the interaction, which is independent of the phosphate status of HupT. Several forms of HupT were tested for their ability to interact with HupUV and to complement hupT mutants. Strong interaction with HupUV was obtained with the isolated PAS domain of HupT and with inactive HupT mutated in the phosphorylable histidine residue, but only the wild-type HupT protein was able to restore normal H2 regulation.
PMCID: PMC296252  PMID: 14645270

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