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J Biol Eng. 2012 Oct 10;6(1):19. doi: 10.1186/1754-1611-6-19.

Inactivation of uptake hydrogenase leads to enhanced and sustained hydrogen production with high nitrogenase activity under high light exposure in the cyanobacterium Anabaena siamensis TISTR 8012.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cyanobacterial Biotechnology, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, 10330, Thailand. Peter.Lindblad@kemi.uu.se.



Biohydrogen from cyanobacteria has attracted public interest due to its potential as a renewable energy carrier produced from solar energy and water. Anabaena siamensis TISTR 8012, a novel strain isolated from rice paddy field in Thailand, has been identified as a promising cyanobacterial strain for use as a high-yield hydrogen producer attributed to the activities of two enzymes, nitrogenase and bidirectional hydrogenase. One main obstacle for high hydrogen production by A. siamensis is a light-driven hydrogen consumption catalyzed by the uptake hydrogenase. To overcome this and in order to enhance the potential for nitrogenase based hydrogen production, we engineered a hydrogen uptake deficient strain by interrupting hupS encoding the small subunit of the uptake hydrogenase.


An engineered strain lacking a functional uptake hydrogenase (∆hupS) produced about 4-folds more hydrogen than the wild type strain. Moreover, the ∆hupS strain showed long term, sustained hydrogen production under light exposure with 2-3 folds higher nitrogenase activity compared to the wild type. In addition, HupS inactivation had no major effects on cell growth and heterocyst differentiation. Gene expression analysis using RT-PCR indicates that electrons and ATP molecules required for hydrogen production in the ∆hupS strain may be obtained from the electron transport chain associated with the photosynthetic oxidation of water in the vegetative cells. The ∆hupS strain was found to compete well with the wild type up to 50 h in a mixed culture, thereafter the wild type started to grow on the relative expense of the ∆hupS strain.


Inactivation of hupS is an effective strategy for improving biohydrogen production, in rates and specifically in total yield, in nitrogen-fixing cultures of the cyanobacterium Anabaena siamensis TISTR 8012.

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