Metabolic pathways for photobiological hydrogen production by nitrogenase- and hydrogenase-containing unicellular cyanobacteria Cyanothece

Nicholas J. Skizim, Gennady M. Ananyev, Anagha Krishnan, G. Charles Dismukes

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Current biotechnological interest in nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria stems from their robust respiration and capacity to produce hydrogen. Here we quantify both dark- and light-induced H 2 effluxes by Cyanothece sp. Miami BG 043511 and establish their respective origins. Dark, anoxic H 2 production occurs via hydrogenase utilizing reductant from glycolytic catabolism of carbohydrates (autofermentation). Photo-H 2 is shown to occur via nitrogenase and requires illumination of PSI, whereas production of O 2 by co-illumination of PSII is inhibitory to nitrogenase above a threshold pO 2. Carbohydrate also serves as the major source of reductant for the PSI pathway mediated via nonphotochemical reduction of the plastoquinone pool by NADH dehydrogenases type-1 and type-2 (NDH-1 and NDH-2). Redirection of this reductant flux exclusively through the proton-coupled NDH-1 by inhibition of NDH-2 with flavone increases the photo-H 2 production rate by 2-fold (at the expense of the dark-H 2 rate), due to production of additional ATP (via the proton gradient). Comparison of photobiological hydrogen rates, yields, and energy conversion efficiencies reveals opportunities for improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2777-2786
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 20 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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