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The Molybdenum Active Site of Formate Dehydrogenase Is Capable of Catalyzing C–H Bond Cleavage and Oxygen Atom Transfer Reactions

Hartmann, Tobias, Schrapers, Peer, Utesch, Tillmann, Nimtz, Manfred, Rippers, Yvonne, Dau, Holger, Mroginski, Maria Andrea, Haumann, Michael, Leimkühler, Silke
Biochemistry 2016 v.55 no.16 pp. 2381-2389
Rhodobacter capsulatus, active sites, arginine, carbon, carbon dioxide, catalytic activity, chemical bonding, cysteine, energy, formate dehydrogenase, formates, fuel cells, histidine, molybdenum, nitrates, nitrites, oxidation, oxygen, tungsten
Formate dehydrogenases (FDHs) are capable of performing the reversible oxidation of formate and are enzymes of great interest for fuel cell applications and for the production of reduced carbon compounds as energy sources from CO₂. Metal-containing FDHs in general contain a highly conserved active site, comprising a molybdenum (or tungsten) center coordinated by two molybdopterin guanine dinucleotide molecules, a sulfido and a (seleno-)cysteine ligand, in addition to a histidine and arginine residue in the second coordination sphere. So far, the role of these amino acids in catalysis has not been studied in detail, because of the lack of suitable expression systems and the lability or oxygen sensitivity of the enzymes. Here, the roles of these active site residues is revealed using the Mo-containing FDH from Rhodobacter capsulatus. Our results show that the cysteine ligand at the Mo ion is displaced by the formate substrate during the reaction, the arginine has a direct role in substrate binding and stabilization, and the histidine elevates the pKₐ of the active site cysteine. We further found that in addition to reversible formate oxidation, the enzyme is further capable of reducing nitrate to nitrite. We propose a mechanistic scheme that combines both functionalities and provides important insights into the distinct mechanisms of C–H bond cleavage and oxygen atom transfer catalyzed by formate dehydrogenase.