Structural and spectroscopic characterization of a HdrA-like subunit from Hyphomicrobium denitrificans

Corvin Ernst, Kanwal Kayastha, Tobias Koch, Sofia S. Venceslau, Inês A.C. Pereira, Ulrike Demmer, Ulrich Ermler, Christiane Dahl

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Many bacteria and archaea employ a novel pathway of sulfur oxidation involving an enzyme complex that is related to the heterodisulfide reductase (Hdr or HdrABC) of methanogens. As a first step in the biochemical characterization of Hdr-like proteins from sulfur oxidizers (sHdr), we structurally analyzed the recombinant sHdrA protein from the Alphaproteobacterium Hyphomicrobium denitrificans at 1.4 Å resolution. The sHdrA core structure is similar to that of methanogenic HdrA (mHdrA) which binds the electron-bifurcating flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), the heart of the HdrABC-[NiFe]-hydrogenase catalyzed reaction. Each sHdrA homodimer carries two FADs and two [4Fe–4S] clusters being linked by electron conductivity. Redox titrations monitored by electron paramagnetic resonance and visible spectroscopy revealed a redox potential between −203 and −188 mV for the [4Fe–4S] center. The potentials for the FADH•/FADH and FAD/FADH• pairs reside between −174 and −156 mV and between −81 and −19 mV, respectively. The resulting stable semiquinone FADH• species already detectable in the visible and electron paramagnetic resonance spectra of the as-isolated state of sHdrA is incompatible with basic principles of flavin-based electron bifurcation such that the sHdr complex does not apply this new mode of energy coupling. The inverted one-electron FAD redox potentials of sHdr and mHdr are clearly reflected in the different FAD-polypeptide interactions. According to this finding and the assumption that the sHdr complex forms an asymmetric HdrAA′B1C1B2C2 hexamer, we tentatively propose a mechanism that links protein-bound sulfane oxidation to sulfite on HdrB1 with NAD+ reduction via lipoamide disulfide reduction on HdrB2. The FAD of HdrA thereby serves as an electron storage unit. Database: Structural data are available in PDB database under the accession number 6TJR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1664-1678
Number of pages15
JournalFEBS Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • dissimilatory sulfur oxidation
  • electron bifurcation
  • heterodisulfide reductase
  • Hyphomicrobium denitrificans


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