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Title: Improving cyanobacterail O2-tolerance using CBS hydrogenase for hydrogen production

Cyanobacterial H2 production is a viable path to renewable H2 with water serving as the electron donor and sunlight the energy source. A grand challenge is the sensitivity of the underlying hydrogenase to O2, the latter an inherent byproduct of oxygenic photosynthesis. This challenge has been identified as a technical barrier in the Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) Multi-year Research, Development and Deployment Plan. One solution is to express in cyanobacterium an O2-tolerant hydrogenase to circumvent this barrier. We have uncovered an O2-tolerant hydrogenase from a photosynthetic bacterium Rubrivivax gelatinosus CBS (Casa Bonita Strain; hereafter “CBS”) with a half-life near 21 h when exposed to ambient O2. We sequenced the CBS genome and identified two sets of maturation machineries hyp1 and hyp2. Transcripts expression analysis and mutagenesis revealed that hyp1 is responsible for the assembly of the O2-tolerant CO-oxidation (Coo) hydrogenase and hyp2 is involved in the maturation of a H2-uptake hydrogenase. The structural genes encoding the O2-tolerant hydrogenase (cooLXUH) and maturation genes hyp1FABCDE were therefore cloned and expressed in the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. We obtained several recombinants displaying hydrogenase activity in a Synechocystis host lacking background activity, suggesting that the CBS hydrogenase is active in Synechocystis.more » Yet the activity is extremely low. To ensure balanced protein expression, we systematically optimized heterologous expression of 10 CBS genes by using stronger promoters and better ribosome binding site. Moreover we attempted the expression of cooM and cooK genes, verified to be important in CBS to afford activity. CooM is a very large protein and both CooM and CooK are membrane-associated. These properties limited our success in expressing both genes in Synechocystis, although they were both expressed in E. coli yet with no activity. This project was terminated in FY2016 due to the inability to generate a Synechocystis strain with consistent and active H2 production activity. Nevertheless the research has led to a few high-impact publications and numerous conference presentations to increase global visibility of the DOE-funded research.« less
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  1. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Fuel Cell Technologies Program (EE-3F)
Country of Publication:
United States
08 HYDROGEN; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; 37 INORGANIC, ORGANIC, PHYSICAL, AND ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY Hydrogen; hydrogenase; Rubrivivax gelatinosus; cyanobacteria; Synechocystis; photobiological hydrogen; carbon monoxide