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J Biol Chem. 2001 May 11;276(19):15592-7. Epub 2001 Feb 16.

The H2 sensor of Ralstonia eutropha. Biochemical characteristics, spectroscopic properties, and its interaction with a histidine protein kinase.

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Institut für Biologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Chausseestrasse 117, 10115 Berlin, Germany.


Previous genetic studies have revealed a multicomponent signal transduction chain, consisting of an H(2) sensor, a histidine protein kinase, and a response regulator, which controls hydrogenase gene transcription in the proteobacterium Ralstonia eutropha. In this study, we isolated the H(2) sensor and demonstrated that the purified protein forms a complex with the histidine protein kinase. Biochemical and spectroscopic analysis revealed that the H(2) sensor is a cytoplasmic [NiFe]-hydrogenase with unique features. The H(2)-oxidizing activity was 2 orders of magnitude lower than that of standard hydrogenases and insensitive to oxygen, carbon monoxide, and acetylene. Interestingly, only H(2) production but no HD formation was detected in the D(2)/H(+) exchange assay. Fourier transform infrared data showed an active site similar to that of standard [NiFe]-hydrogenases. It is suggested that the protein environment accounts for a restricted gas diffusion and for the typical kinetic parameters of the H(2) sensor. EPR analysis demonstrated that the [4Fe-4S] clusters within the small subunit were not reduced under hydrogen even in the presence of dithionite. Optical spectra revealed the presence of a novel, redox-active, n = 2 chromophore that is reduced by H(2). The possible involvement of this chromophore in signal transduction is discussed.

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