The hydrogenase gene cluster ofRhizobium leguminosarum bv.viciae contains an additional gene (hypX), which encodes a protein with sequence similarity to the N10-formyltetrahydrofolate-dependent enzyme family and is required for nickel-dependent hydrogenase processing and activity
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Plasmid pAL618 contains the genetic determinants for H2 uptake (hup) fromRhizobium leguminosarum bv.viciae, including a cluster of 17 genes namedhupSLCDEFGHIJK-hypABFCDE. A 1.7-kb segment of insert DNA located downstream ofhypE has now been sequenced, thus completing the sequence of the 20 441-bp insert DNA in plasmid pAL618. An open reading frame (designatedhypX) encoding a protein with a calculated Mr of 62 300 that exhibits extensive sequence similarity with HoxX fromAlcaligenes eutrophus (52% identity) andBradyrhizobium japonicum (57% identity) was identified 10 bp downstream ofhypE. Nodule bacteroids produced byhypX mutants in pea (Pisum sativum L.) plants grown at optimal nickel concentrations (100 µM) for hydrogenase expression, exhibited less than 5% of the wild-type levels of hydrogenase activity. These bacteroids contained wild-type levels of mRNA from hydrogenase structural genes (hupSL) but accumulated large amounts of the immature form of HupL protein. The Hup-deficient mutants were complemented for normal hydrogenase activity and nickel-dependent maturation of HupL by ahypX gene provided in trans. From expression analysis ofhypX-lacZ fusion genes, it appears thathypX gene is transcribed from the FnrN-dependenthyp promoter, thus placinghypX in thehyp operon (hypBFCDEX). Comparisons of the HypX/HoxX sequences with those in databases provided unexpected insights into their function in hydrogenase synthesis. Similarities were restricted to two distinct regions in the HypX/HoxX sequences. Region I, corresponding to a sequence conserved in N10-formyltetrahydrofolate-dependent enzymes involved in transferring one-carbon units (C1), was located in the N-terminal half of the protein, whereas region II, corresponding to a sequence conserved in enzymes of the enoyl-CoA hydratase/isomerase-family, was located in the C-terminal half. These similarities strongly suggest that HypX/HoxX have dual functions: binding of the C1 donor N10-formyl-tetrahydrofolate and transfer of the C1 to an unknown substrate, and catalysis of a reaction involving polarization of the C=O bond of an X-CO-SCoA substrate. These results also suggest the involvement of a small organic molecule, possibly synthesized with the participation of an X-CO-SCoA precursor and of formyl groups, in the synthesis of the metal-containing active centre of hydrogenase.
Key wordsHydrogenase Rhizobium leguminosarum bvviciae N10-formyl tetrahydrofolate hypX Nickel
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