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Biochemistry. 2000 Mar 28;39(12):3416-23.

Role of a NifS-like protein from the cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC 6803 in the maturation of FeS proteins.

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Biochemie der Pflanzen, Fakultät für Biologie, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, 44780 Bochum, Germany.


In Azotobacter vinelandii and Escherichia coli NifS or NifS-like proteins are involved in FeS protein assembly by mobilizing sulfur from free cysteine. This sulfur together with Fe(2+) is then incorporated into apo-FeS proteins to form an FeS center. A different activity termed C-DES [for cyst(e)ine desulfurylase] was recently isolated from the cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC 6714 which also mobilized sulfur and which was able to incorporate the FeS center into apoferredoxin. In the genome of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC 6803, there are three open reading frames (orfs) that are similar to NifS and one that is similar to C-DES, indicating that this bacterium might contain both activities, NifS and C-DES. One orf from Synechocystis PCC 6803 encoding a NifS-like protein, slr0387, was overexpressed in E. coli and purified. The molecular mass of the recombinant protein was determined to be about 82 kDa, indicating that it is a homodimer. The absorption spectrum was typical for PLP-containing proteins with an absorption maximum at 390 nm at pH 9.0 and at 425 nm at pH 6.5. The pH dependence of the absorption spectrum correlated with enzyme activity. Maximal activity measured as sulfide production was observed between pH 8.5 and 10. The activity decreased at lower pH values and was undetectable at pH 5.5. pH-dependent changes in the absorption spectrum and activity were attributed to protonation of the Schiff base formed by a lysine side chain and the PLP cofactor. Studies on substrate specificity demonstrated that cysteine derivatives other than cysteine methyl ester and cysteine-sulfinic acid could not serve as substrates for this enzyme. In particular, cystine was not a substrate for the Synechocystis NifS-like protein, whereas it is the best substrate for C-DES. In the presence of Fe(2+), cysteine, and a reductant, the NifS-like protein was able to produce holoferredoxin from apoferredoxin. The implications of two different activities for FeS center biosynthesis in Synechocystis are discussed.

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