Hydrogenases, the enzymes that reversibly convert protons and electrons to hydrogen, are used in all three domains of life. [NiFe]-hydrogenases are considered best suited for biotechnological applications because of their reversible inactivation with oxygen. Phylogenetically, there are four groups of [NiFe]-hydrogenases. The best characterized group, "uptake" hydrogenases, are membrane-bound and catalyze hydrogen oxidation in vivo. In contrast, the group 3 [NiFe]-hydrogenases are heteromultimeric, bifunctional enzymes that fulfill various cellular roles. In this dissertation, protein film electrochemistry (PFE) is used to characterize the catalytic properties of two group 3 [NiFe]-hydrogenases: HoxEFUYH from Synechocystsis sp. PCC 6803 and SHI from Pyrococcus furiosus. First, HoxEFUYH is shown to be biased towards hydrogen production. Upon exposure to oxygen, HoxEFUYH inactivates to two states, both of which can be reactivated on the timescale of seconds. Second, we show that PfSHI is the first example of an oxygen tolerant [NiFe]-hydrogenase that produces two inactive states upon exposure to oxygen. Both inactive states are analogous to those characterized for HoxEFUYH, but oxygen exposed PfSHI produces a greater fraction that reactivates at high potentials, enabling hydrogen oxidation in the presence of oxygen. Third, it is shown that removing the NAD(P)-reducing subunits from PfSHI leads to a decrease in bias towards hydrogen oxidation and renders the enzyme oxygen sensitive. Both traits are likely due to impaired intramolecular electron transfer. Mechanistic hypotheseses for these functional differences are considered.
- The investigation and characterization of the group 3 [NiFe]-Hydrogenases using protein film electrochemistry