Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The activity of hydrogenase in intact cells of the unicellular cyanobacterium Cyanothece PCC 7822 was investigated using a mass spectrometer with a permeable membrane inlet. A small hydrogenase-catalyzed hydrogen production was observed with nitrate-grown cells under anoxic conditions in the dark. The same cells were also capable of a much greater rate of hydrogen uptake, induced by oxygen as well as light. Light-induced hydrogen uptake was inhibited by uncoupler. In contrast, addition of uncoupler caused a four-fold stimulation of anoxic hydrogen production in the dark. It is suggested that anoxic hydrogen production is the result of fermentative metabolism. Cyanobacteria are generally considered to have at least two distinct hydrogenases (Houchins 1984). One is a membrane-bound uptake hydrogenase which appears to be associated with nitrogen fixation, removing the hydrogen produced by nitrogenase with the concomitant production of reductant or ATP (Eisbrenner et al. 1978). The second is a reversible hydrogenase located in the cytoplasm and not closely linked to nitrogen metabolism. The reversible character of this enzyme can be demonstrated in the presence of suitable electron donors or acceptors; hydrogen consumption and evolution occur at similar rates (Lambert and Smith 1980). A reversible hydrogenase capable of reducing protons with the artificial electron donor couple dithionite and methyl viologen is widely distributed amongst cyanobacteria. However its physiological role remains unclear. The enzyme appears to be sensitive to oxygen, and consequently in vivo activity can only be demonstrated under anoxic conditions (Houchins 1984). On the basis of in vivo measurements with tritium and the observed low K m for hydrogen, the function of the reversible hydrogenase of the heterocystous cyanobacterium Anabaena has been proposed to be the uptake of hydrogen as a means of collecting additional reducing power during growth in light-limited anoxic environments (Spiller et al. 1983; Houchins 1984). However, Hallenbeck et al. (1981) reported a modest production of hydrogen by intact filaments of Anabaena. An example of a function of the reversible hydrogenase in the production of hydrogen is provided by the nonheterocystous filamentous cyanobacterium Oscillatoria limnetica. This organism is capable of shifting between oxygenic and anoxygenic photosynthesis (Oren and Padan 1978). In the latter case sulfide is the electron donor supporting photoreduction of CO2 via photosystem I only. However when CO2 is limiting, excess reducing equivalents are removed by a reversible hydrogenase (Belkin and Padan 1978). This hydrogen production probably enables the organism to continue photophosphorylation under these conditions. We recently reported that the unicellular cyanobacterium Cyanothece 7822 is capable of hydrogenase-catalyzed hydrogen production in vivo, without the addition of artificial reductants (Van der Oost et al. 1987). In this paper we have investigated the in vivo activity of the hydrogenase in Cyanothece by monitoring the concentrations of dissolved H2 and O2 in the cell suspension using a mass spectrometer with a permeable membrane inlet.
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