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The utilization of molecular hydrogen by the blue-green alga Anabaena cylindrica

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The blue-green alga Anabaena cylindrica is found to consume molecular hydrogen in a hydrogenase dependent reaction. This hydrogen uptake proceeds in the dark and is strictly dependent on oxygen, thus representing a Knallgas reactions. Its rate is almost as high as that of the endogenous respiration in Anabaena. Studies with inhibitors reveal that hydrogen is utilized via the complete respiratory chain providing additional energy for the alga. CO plus C2H2 completely block the Knallgas reaction which explains the previously reported considerable increase in the total H2 formation representing the difference between the nitrogenase-dependent H2-evolution and the reutilization of the gas catalysed by the hydrogenase in intact Anabaena.

H2 is able to support the C2H2-reduction in the dark in a reaction again strictly dependent on oxygen. Moreover, H2 is also consumed in experiments carried out under far red light and in the presence of dichlorophenyl-dimenthyl-urea (DCMU) where the energy for nitrogen fixation is no longer provided by respiration but by cyclic photophosphorylation. Under these conditions, H2 is found to supply electrons for the formation of C2H4 from C2H2 in a reaction no longer dependent on the presence of oxygen. Moreover, in these experiments, the presence of H2 stabilizes the C2H2-reduction activity against the deleterious effect of oxygen.

Thus, this communication provides evidence for a triplicate function of the H2-uptake catalysed by hydrogenase in intact Anabaena which is (a) to provide energy by the Knallgas reaction, (b) to supply reducing equivalents for nitrogenase, (c) to protect nitrogenase from damage by oxygen.

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Bothe, H., Tennigkeit, J. & Eisbrenner, G. The utilization of molecular hydrogen by the blue-green alga Anabaena cylindrica . Arch. Microbiol. 114, 43–49 (1977). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00429628

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Key words

  • Cyanobacteria
  • Anabaena
  • Hydrogenase
  • Hydrogen-uptake
  • Nitrogenase
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Protection mechanism
  • Inhibitors