Analysis of steady state Fe and MoFe protein interactions during nitrogenase catalysis

J. L. Johnson, A. C. Nyborg, P. E. Wilson, A. M. Tolley, F. R. Nordmeyer, G. D. Watt

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17 Scopus citations


Steady state kinetic measurements are reported for nitrogenase from Azotobacter vinelandii (Av) and Clostridium pasteurianum (Cp) under a variety of conditions, using dithionite as reductant. The specific activities of Av1 and Cp1 are determined as functions of Av2:Av1 and Cp2:Cp1, respectively, at component protein ratios from 0.4 to 50, and conform to a simple hyperbolic rate law for the interaction of Av2 with Av1 and Cp2 with Cp1. The specific activities of Av2 and Cp2 are also measured as a function of increasing Av1 and Cp1 concentrations, producing 'MoFe inhibition' at large MoFe:Fe ratios. When the rate of product formation under MoFe inhibited conditions is re-plotted as increasing Av2:Av1 or Cp2:Cp1 ratios, sigmoidal kinetic behavior is observed, suggesting that the rate constants in the Thorneley and Lowe (T and L) model are more dependent upon the oxidation level of MoFe protein than previously suspected [R.N.F. Thorneley, D.J. Lowe, Biochem. J. 224 (1984) 887-894], at least when applied to Av and Cp. Calculation of Hill coefficients gave values of 1.7-1.9, suggesting a highly cooperative Fe-MoFe protein interaction in both Av and Cp nitrogenase catalysis. The T and L model lacks analytical solutions [R.N.F. Thorneley, D.J. Lowe, Biochem. J. 215 (1983) 393-404], so the ease of its application to experimental data is limited. To facilitate the study of steady state kinetic data for H2 evolution, analytical equations are derived from a different mechanism for nitrogenase activity, similar to that of Bergersen and Turner [Biochem. J. 131 (1973) 61-75]. This alternative cooperative model assumes that two Fe proteins interact with one MoFe protein active site. The derived rate laws for this mechanism were fitted to the observed sigmoidal behavior for low Fe:MoFe ratios (<0.4), as well as to the commonly observed hyperbolic behavior for high values of Fe:MoFe for both Av and Cp. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-35
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Protein Structure and Molecular Enzymology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 30 2000


  • Cooperativity
  • Kinetics
  • MoFe inhibition
  • Nitrogenase


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