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Biochemistry. 2014 Jan 14;53(1):152-60. doi: 10.1021/bi4011978. Epub 2013 Dec 23.

Fe-S cluster biogenesis in Gram-positive bacteria: SufU is a zinc-dependent sulfur transfer protein.

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Department of Chemistry, Wake Forest University , Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States.


The biosynthesis of Fe-S clusters in Bacillus subtilis and other Gram-positive bacteria is catalyzed by the SufCDSUB system. The first step in this pathway involves the sulfur mobilization from the free amino acid cysteine to a sulfur acceptor protein SufU via a PLP-dependent cysteine desulfurase SufS. In this reaction scheme, the formation of an enzyme S-covalent intermediate is followed by the binding of SufU. This event leads to the second half of the reaction where a deprotonated thiol of SufU promotes the nucleophilic attack onto the persulfide intermediate of SufS. Kinetic analysis combined with spectroscopic methods identified that the presence of a zinc atom tightly bound to SufU (Ka = 10(17) M(-1)) is crucial for its structural and catalytic competency. Fe-S cluster assembly experiments showed that despite the high degree of sequence and structural similarity to the ortholog enzyme IscU, the B. subtilis SufU does not act as a standard Fe-S cluster scaffold protein. The involvement of SufU as a dedicated agent of sulfur transfer, rather than as an assembly scaffold, in the biogenesis of Fe-S clusters in Gram-positive microbes indicates distinct strategies used by bacterial systems to assemble Fe-S clusters.

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