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Selective cysteine-to-selenocysteine changes in a [NiFe]-hydrogenase confirm a special position for catalysis and oxygen tolerance

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Evans, R. M., Krahn, N., Murphy, B. J., Lee, H., Armstrong, F. A., & Soll, D. (2021). Selective cysteine-to-selenocysteine changes in a [NiFe]-hydrogenase confirm a special position for catalysis and oxygen tolerance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(13): e2100921118. doi:10.1073/pnas.2100921118.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-8616-8
In [NiFe]-hydrogenases, the active-site Ni is coordinated by four cysteine-S ligands (Cys; C), two of which are bridging to the Fe(CO)(CN)(2) fragment. Substitution of a single Cys residue by selenocysteine (Sec; U) occurs occasionally in nature. Using a recent method for site-specific Sec incorporation into proteins, each of the four Ni-coordinating cysteine residues in the oxygen-tolerant Escherichia coli [NiFe]-hydrogenase-1 (Hyd-1) has been replaced by U to identify its importance for enzyme function. Steady-state solution activity of each Sec-substituted enzyme (on a per-milligram basis) is lowered, although this may reflect the unquantified presence of recalcitrant inactive/immature/misfolded forms. Protein film electrochemistry, however, reveals detailed kinetic data that are independent of absolute activities. Like native Hyd-1, the variants have low apparent KMH2 values, do not produce H-2 at pH 6, and display the same onset overpotential for H-2 oxidation. Mechanistically important differences were identified for the C576U variant bearing the equivalent replacement found in native [NiFeSe]-hydrogenases, its extreme O-2 tolerance (apparent KMH2 and V-max [solution] values relative to native Hyd-1 of 0.13 and 0.04, respectively) implying the importance of a selenium atom in the position cis to the site where exogenous ligands (H-, H-2, O-2) bind. Observation of the same unusual electrocatalytic signature seen earlier for the proton transfer-defective E28Q variant highlights the direct role of the chalcogen atom (S/Se) at position 576 close to E28, with the caveat that Se is less effective than S in facilitating proton transfer away from the Ni during H-2 oxidation by this enzyme.