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Lery, Leticia M. S.; Bitar, Maina; Costa, Mauricio G. S.; Roessle, Shaila C. S.; Bisch, Paulo M.: Unraveling the molecular mechanisms of nitrogenase conformational protection against oxygen in diazotrophic bacteria. In: BMC Genomics 2010, 11:S7




Background: G. diazotrophicus and A. vinelandii are aerobic nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Although oxygen is essential for the survival of these organisms, it irreversibly inhibits nitrogenase, the complex responsible for nitrogen fixation. Both microorganisms deal with this paradox through compensatory mechanisms. In A. vinelandii a conformational protection mechanism occurs through the interaction between the nitrogenase complex and the FeSII protein. Previous studies suggested the existence of a similar system in G. diazotrophicus, but the putative protein involved was not yet described. This study intends to identify the protein coding gene in the recently sequenced genome of G. diazotrophicus and also provide detailed structural information of nitrogenase conformational protection in both organisms. Results: Genomic analysis of G. diazotrophicus sequences revealed a protein coding ORF (Gdia0615) enclosing a conserved "fer2" domain, typical of the ferredoxin family and found in A. vinelandii FeSII. Comparative models of both FeSII and Gdia0615 disclosed a conserved beta-grasp fold. Cysteine residues that coordinate the 2[Fe-S] cluster are in conserved positions towards the metallocluster. Analysis of solvent accessible residues and electrostatic surfaces unveiled an hydrophobic dimerization interface. Dimers assembled by molecular docking presented a stable behaviour and a proper accommodation of regions possibly involved in binding of FeSII to nitrogenase throughout molecular dynamics simulations in aqueous solution. Molecular modeling of the nitrogenase complex of G. diazotrophicus was performed and models were compared to the crystal structure of A. vinelandii nitrogenase. Docking experiments of FeSII and Gdia0615 with its corresponding nitrogenase complex pointed out in both systems a putative binding site presenting shape and charge complementarities at the Fe-protein/MoFe-protein complex interface. Conclusions: The identification of the putative FeSII coding gene in G. diazotrophicus genome represents a large step towards the understanding of the conformational protection mechanism of nitrogenase against oxygen. In addition, this is the first study regarding the structural complementarities of FeSII-nitrogenase interactions in diazotrophic bacteria. The combination of bioinformatic tools for genome analysis, comparative protein modeling, docking calculations and molecular dynamics provided a powerful strategy for the elucidation of molecular mechanisms and structural features of FeSII-nitrogenase interaction.