Maturation and Regulation of Cyanobacterial Hydrogenases

Abstract: Accelerated global warming plus an increasing need for energy is an equation not easily solved, thus new forms of sustainable energy production are urgently requested. In this context hydrogen production based on a cyanobacterial system offers an environmentally friendly alternative for energy capture and conversion. Cyanobacteria can produce hydrogen gas from sun light and water through the combination of photosystems and hydrogenases, and are suitable to cultivate in large scale. In the present thesis the maturation process of [NiFe]-hydrogenases is investigated with special focus on transcription of the accessory genes encoding proteins needed for assembly of the large and possibly also for the small hydrogenase subunit. The cyanobacteria used are two N2-fixing, filamentous, heterocystous strains; Nostoc sp. strain PCC 7120 and Nostoc punctiforme PCC 73102. For a biotechnological exploration of hydrogen production tools for regulatory purposes are important. The transcription factor CalA (cyanobacterial AbrB like) (Alr0946 in the genome) in Nostoc sp. strain PCC 7120 was found to be involved in hydrogen metabolism by regulating the transcription of the maturation protein HypC. Further the bidirectional hydrogenase activity was down-regulated in the presence of elevated levels of CalA, a result important to take into account when optimizing cyanobacteria for hydrogen production. CalA regulates at least 25 proteins in Nostoc sp. strain PCC 7120 and one of the down-regulated proteins was superoxide dismutase, FeSOD. The characterization of FeSOD shows that it has a specific and important function in the oxidative stress tolerance of Nostoc sp. stain PCC 7120. Since CalA is involved in regulation of both the hydrogen metabolism as well as stress responses these findings indicate that Alr0946 is an important transcription factor in Nostoc sp. strain PCC 7120 active on a global level in the cell. This thesis adds more knowledge concerning maturation and regulation of cyanobacterial hydrogenases which might be useful for future large scale hydrogen.