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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1990 Nov 5;1020(2):115-45.

The structure and mechanism of iron-hydrogenases.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Georgia, Athens 30602.


Hydrogenases devoid of nickel and containing only Fe-S clusters have been found so far only in some strictly anaerobic bacteria. Four Fe-hydrogenases have been characterized: from Megasphaera elsdenii, Desulfovibrio vulgaris (strain Hildenborough), and two from Clostridium pasteurianum. All contain two or more [4Fe-4S]1+,2+ or F clusters and a unique type of Fe-S center termed the H cluster. The H cluster appears to be remarkably similar in all the hydrogenases, and is proposed as the site of H2 oxidation and H2 production. The F clusters serve to transfer electrons between the H cluster and the external electron carrier. In all of the hydrogenases the H cluster is comprised of at least three Fe atoms, and possibly six. In the oxidized state it contains two types of magnetically distinct Fe atoms, has an S = 1/2 spin state, and exhibits a novel rhombic EPR signal. The reduced cluster is diamagnetic (S = 0). The oxidized H cluster appears to undergo a conformation change upon reduction with H2 with an increase in Fe-Fe distances of about 0.5 A. Studies using resonance Raman, magnetic circular dichroism and electron spin echo spectroscopies suggest that the H cluster has significant non-sulfur coordination. The H cluster has two binding sites for CO, at least one of which can also bind O2. Binding to one site changes the EPR properties of the cluster and gives a photosensitive adduct, but does not affect catalytic activity. Binding to the other site, which only becomes exposed during the catalytic cycle, leads to loss of catalytic activity. Mechanisms of H2 activation and electron transfer are proposed to explain the effects of CO binding and the ability of one of the hydrogenases to preferentially catalyze H2 oxidation.

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