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Biochem J. 1996 Jun 15;316 ( Pt 3):887-92.

Reconstitution of the [4Fe-4S] cluster in FNR and demonstration of the aerobic-anaerobic transcription switch in vitro.

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The Krebs Institute, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, U.K.


The FNR protein of Escherichia coli is a redox-responsive transcription regulator that activates and represses a family of genes required for anaerobic and aerobic metabolism. Reconstitution of wild-type FNR by anaerobic treatment with ferrous ions, cysteine and the NifS protein of Azotobacter vinelandii leads to the incorporation of two [4Fe-4S]2+ clusters per FNR dimer. The UV-visible spectrum of reconstituted FNR has a broad absorbance at 420 nm. The clusters are EPR silent under anaerobic conditions but are degraded to [3Fe-4S]+ by limited oxidation with air, and completely lost on prolonged air exposure. The association of FNR with the iron-sulphur clusters is confirmed by CD spectroscopy. Incorporation of the [4Fe-4S]2+ clusters increases site-specific DNA binding about 7-fold compared with apo-FNR. Anaerobic transcription activation and repression in vitro likewise depends on the presence of the iron-sulphur cluster, and its inactivation under aerobic conditions provides a demonstration in vitro of the FNR-mediated aerobic-anaerobic transcriptional switch.

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