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Biohydrogen is a potentially useful product of microbial energy metabolism. One approach to engineering biohydrogen production in bacteria is the production of non-native hydrogenase activity in a host cell, for example Escherichia coli. In some microbes, hydrogenase enzymes are linked directly to central metabolism via diaphorase enzymes that utilise NAD+/NADH cofactors. In this work, it was hypothesised that heterologous production of an NAD+/NADH-linked hydrogenase could connect hydrogen production in an E. coli host directly to its central metabolism. To test this, a synthetic operon was designed and characterised encoding an apparently NADH-dependent, hydrogen-evolving [FeFe]-hydrogenase from Caldanaerobacter subterranus. The synthetic operon was stably integrated into the E. coli chromosome and shown to produce an active hydrogenase, however no H2 production was observed. Subsequently, it was found that heterologous co-production of a pyruvate::ferredoxin oxidoreductase and ferredoxin from Thermotoga maritima was found to be essential to drive H2 production by this system. This work provides genetic evidence that the Ca.subterranus [FeFe]-hydrogenase could be operating in vivo as an electron-confurcating enzyme.
- Bacterial hydrogen metabolism
- Molecular genetics
- Protein engineering