The growing global energy demand coupled with the need for a low-carbon economy requires innovative solutions. Microalgal oxygenic photosynthesis provides a sustainable platform for efficient capture of sunlight and storage of some of the energy in the form of reduced carbon derivatives. Under certain conditions, the photosynthetic reductant can be shunted to molecular hydrogen production, yet the efficiency and longevity of such processes are insufficient. In this work, re-engineering of the heterodimeric type I reaction center, also known as photosystem I (PSI), in the green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii was shown to dramatically change algal metabolism and improve photobiological hydrogen production in vivo. First, an internal fusion of the small PsaC subunit of PSI harboring the terminal photosynthetic electron transport chain cofactors with the endogenous algal hydrogenase 2 (HydA2) was demonstrated to assemble on the PSI core in vivo, albeit at ~15% the level of normal PSI accumulation, and make molecular hydrogen from water oxidation. Second, the more physiologically active algal endogenous hydrogenase 1 (HydA1) was fused to PsaC in a similar fashion, resulting in improved levels of accumulation (~75%). Both algal hydrogenases chimeras remained extremely oxygen sensitive and benefited from oxygen removal methods. On the example of PSI-HydA1 chimera, it was demonstrated that the active site of hydrogenase can be reactivated in vivo after complete inactivation by oxygen without the need for new polypeptide synthesis. Third, the hydrogenase domain of Megasphaera elsdenii bacterial hydrogenase (MeHydA) was also fused with psaC, resulting in expression of a PSI-hydrogenase chimera at ~25% the normal level. The heterologous hydrogenase chimera could be activated with the algal maturation system, despite only 32 % sequence identity (43 % similarity). All constructs demonstrated diminished ability to reduce PSI electron acceptors (ferredoxin and flavodoxin) in vitro and indirect evidence indicated that this was true in vivo as well. Finally, chimeric design considerations are discussed in light of the models generated by Alphafold2 and how could they be used to further optimize stability of the PSI-hydrogenase chimeric complexes.
- Engineering the Next-generation Type I Reaction Centers Specializing in Hydrogen Production in Vivo
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