[FeFe]-hydrogenase abundance and diversity along a vertical redox gradient in great Salt Lake, USA

Eric S. Boyd, Trinity L. Hamilton, Kevin D. Swanson, Alta E. Howells, Bonnie K. Baxter, Jonathan E. Meuser, Matthew C. Posewitz, John W. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The use of [FeFe]-hydrogenase enzymes for the biotechnological production of H2 or other reduced products has been limited by their sensitivity to oxygen (O2). Here, we apply a PCR-directed approach to determine the distribution, abundance, and diversity of hydA gene fragments along co-varying salinity and O2 gradients in a vertical water column of Great Salt Lake (GSL), UT. The distribution of hydA was constrained to water column transects that had high salt and relatively low O2 concentrations. Recovered HydA deduced amino acid sequences were enriched in hydrophilic amino acids relative to HydA from less saline environments. In addition, they harbored interesting variations in the amino acid environment of the complex H-cluster metalloenzyme active site and putative gas transfer channels that may be important for both H2 transfer and O2 susceptibility. A phylogenetic framework was created to infer the accessory cluster composition and quaternary structure of recovered HydA protein sequences based on phylogenetic relationships and the gene contexts of known complete HydA sequences. Numerous recovered HydA are predicted to harbor multiple N- and C-terminal accessory iron-sulfur cluster binding domains and are likely to exist as multisubunit complexes. This study indicates an important role for [FeFe]-hydrogenases in the functioning of the GSL ecosystem and provides new target genes and variants for use in identifying O2 tolerant enzymes for biotechnological applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21947-21966
Number of pages20
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 28 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Electron bifurcation
  • Fermentation
  • Hydrogen
  • Hydropathy
  • Hypersaline
  • Oxygen tolerance
  • Photosynthesis
  • [FeFe]-hydrogenase


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