Hydrogen metabolism in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803: insight into the light-dependent and light-independent hydrogenase activities
The unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 contains a NiFe-type bidirectional hydrogenase that is capable of using reducing equivalents to reduce protons and generate H¬2. In order to achieve sustained H2 production using this cyanobacterium many challenges need to be overcome. Reported H2 production from Synechocystis is of low rate and often transient. Results described in this dissertation show that the hydrogenase activity in Synechocystis is quite different during periods of darkness and light. In darkness, the hydrogenase enzyme acts in a truly bidirectional way and a particular H2 concentration is reached that depends upon the amount of biomass involved in H2 production. On the other hand, in the presence of light the enzyme shows only transient H2 production followed by a rapid and constitutive H2 oxidation. H2 oxidation and production were measured from a variety of Synechocystis strains in which components of the photosynthetic or respiratory electron transport chain were either deleted or inhibited. It was shown that the light-induced H2 oxidation is dependent on the activity of cytochrome b6f and photosystem I but not on the activity of photosystem II, indicating a channeling of electrons through cytochrome b6f and photosystem I. Because of the sequence similarities between subunits of NADH dehydrogenase I in E. coli and subunits of hydrogenase in Synechocystis, NADH dehydrogenase I was considered as the most likely candidate to mediate the electron transfer from hydrogenase to the membrane electron carrier plastoquinone, and a three-dimensional homology model with the associated subunits shows that structurally it is possible for the subunits of the two complexes to assemble. Finally, with the aim of improving the rate of H2 production in Synechocystis by using a powerful hydrogenase enzyme, a mutant strain of Synechocystis was created in which the native hydrogenase was replaced with the hydrogenase from Lyngbya aestuarii BL J, a strain with higher capacity for H2 production. H2 production was detected in this Synechocystis mutant strain, but only in the presence of external reductants. Overall, this study emphasizes the importance of redox partners in determining the direction of H2 flux in Synechocystis.