, 20:565 | Cite as

Maturation of [NiFe]-hydrogenases in Escherichia coli

  • Lucia Forzi
  • R. Gary Sawers


Hydrogenases catalyze the reversible oxidation of dihydrogen. Catalysis occurs at bimetallic active sites that contain either nickel and iron or only iron and the nature of these active sites forms the basis of categorizing the enzymes into three classes, the [NiFe]-hydrogenases, the [FeFe]-hydrogenases and the iron sulfur cluster-free [Fe]-hydrogenases. The [NiFe]-hydrogenases and the [FeFe]-hydrogenases are unrelated at the amino acid sequence level but the active sites share the unusual feature of having diatomic ligands associated with the Fe atoms in the these enzymes. Combined structural and spectroscopic studies of [NiFe]-hydrogenases identified these diatomic ligands as CN- and CO groups. Major advances in our understanding of the biosynthesis of these ligands have been achieved primarily through the study of the membrane-associated [NiFe]-hydrogenases of Escherichia coli. A complex biosynthetic machinery is involved in synthesis and attachment of these ligands to the iron atom, insertion of the Fe(CN)2CO group into the apo-hydrogenase, introduction of the nickel atom into the pre-formed active site and ensuring that the holoenzyme is correctly folded prior to delivery to the membrane. Although much remains to be uncovered regarding each of the individual biochemical steps on the pathway to synthesis of a fully functional enzyme, our understanding of the initial steps in CN- synthesis have revealed that it is generated from carbamoyl phosphate. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the metabolic origins of the carbonyl group may be different.


Hydrogenase CO and CN ligands Metal centers Cofactor biosynthesis Nickel and iron 



We are indebted to August Böck and Rolf Thauer for their comments on the manuscript. The work described here has been supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Max-Planck Society. Chris Pickett is thanked for useful discussions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institute for Terrestrial MicrobiologyMarburgGermany

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