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Biochemistry. 1998 Sep 8;37(36):12611-23.

Catalytic and biophysical properties of a nitrogenase Apo-MoFe protein produced by a nifB-deletion mutant of Azotobacter vinelandii.

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Department of Biochemistry, Fralin Biotechnology Center, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA.


A Zn-immobilized metal-affinity chromatography technique was used to purify a poly-histidine-tagged, FeMo-cofactorless MoFe protein (apo-MoFe protein) from a nifB-deletion mutant of Azotobacter vinelandii. Apo-MoFe protein prepared in this way was obtained in sufficient concentrations for detailed catalytic, kinetic, and spectroscopic analyses. Metal analysis and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy (EPR) were used to show that the apo-MoFe protein does not contain FeMo-cofactor. The EPR of the as-isolated apo-MoFe protein is featureless except for a minor S = 1/2 signal probably arising from the presence of either a damaged P cluster or a P cluster precursor. The apo-MoFe protein has an alpha2beta2 subunit composition and can be activated to 80% of the theoretical MoFe protein value by the addition of isolated FeMo-cofactor. Oxidation of the as-isolated apo-MoFe protein by indigodisulfonate was used to elicit the parallel mode EPR signal indicative of the two-electron oxidized form of the P cluster (P2+). The midpoint potential of the PN/P2+ redox couple for the apo-MoFe protein was shown to be shifted by -63 mV when compared to the same redox couple for the intact MoFe protein. Although the apo-MoFe protein is not able to catalyze the reduction of substrates under turnover conditions, it does support the hydrolysis of MgATP at 60% of the rate supported by the MoFe protein when incubated in the presence of Fe protein. The ability of the apo-MoFe protein to specifically interact with the Fe protein was also shown by stopped-flow techniques and by formation of an apo-MoFe protein-Fe protein complex. Finally, the two-electron oxidized form of the apo-MoFe protein could be reduced to the one-electron oxidized form (P1+) in a reaction that required Fe protein and MgATP. These results are interpreted to indicate that the apo-MoFe protein produced in a nifB-deficient genetic background [corrected] contains intact P clusters and P cluster polypeptide environments. Small changes in the electronic properties of P clusters contained within the apo-MoFe protein are most likely caused by slight perturbations in their polypeptide environments.

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