Electron microscopy of nickel-containing methanogenic enzymes: Methyl reductase and F420-reducing hydrogenase

L. P. Wackett, E. A. Hartwieg, J. A. King, W. H. Orme-Johnson, C. T. Walsh

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Methanogens catalyze the hydrogen-dependent eight-electron reduction of carbon dioxide to methane. Two of the key catalysts in the eight-electron reduction pathway are the nickel-containing enzymes F420-reducing hydrogenase and methyl reductase. In the present study, the structures of these archaebacterial enzymes from Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum ΔH have been determined by electron microscopy. By negative stain techniques, F420 hydrogenase was found to be a ring structure with a diameter of 15.7 nm and an inner channel 4 nm in diameter. Shadow-casting experiments demonstrated that the rings were 8.5 nm deep, indicating a holoenzyme molecular weight of 8.0 x 105. Methyl reductase appeared to be an oligomeric complex of dimensions 8.5 by 9 by 11 nm, with a central stain-penetrating region. The morphology and known subunit composition suggest a model in which the subunits are arranged as an eclipsed pair of open trimers. Methyl reductase was also found in the form of larger aggregates and in paracrystalline arrays derived from highly concentrated solutions. The extremely large size of F420 hydrogenase and the methyl reductase supramolecular assemblies may have relevance in vivo in the construction of multiprotein arrays that function in methane biogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)718-727
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1987


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