Revealing a Role for the G Subunit in Mediating Interactions Between the Nitrogenase Component Proteins

Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry

Publication Date



Elsevier Inc.




Azotobacter vinelandii contains three forms of nitrogenase known as the Mo-, V-, and Fe-nitrogenases. They are all two-component enzyme systems, where the catalytic component, referred to as NifDK, VnfDGK, and AnfDGK, associates with the reductase component, the Fe protein or NifH, VnfH, and AnfH respectively. AnfDGK and VnfDGK have an additional subunit compared to NifDK, termed gamma or AnfG and VnfG, whose role is unknown. The expression of each nitrogenase is tightly regulated by metal availability, however it is known that there is crosstalk between the Mo- and V‑nitrogenases but the Fe‑nitrogenase components cannot support substrate reduction with its Mo‑nitrogenase counterparts. Here, docking models for the nitrogenase complexes were generated in ClusPro 2.0 based on the crystal structure of the Mo‑nitrogenase and refined using the HADDOCK 2.2 refinement interface to identify structural determinants that enable crosstalk between the Mo- and V‑nitrogenase but not the Fe‑nitrogenase. Differing salt bridge interactions were identified at the binding interface of each complex. Specifically, positively charged residues of VnfG enable complementary interactions with NifH and VnfH but not AnfH. Similarly, negatively charged residues of AnfG enable interactions with AnfH but not NifH or VnfH. A role for the G subunit is revealed where VnfG could be mediating crosstalk between the Mo- and V‑nitrogenases while the AnfG subunit on AnfDGK makes interactions with NifH and VnfH unfavorable, reducing competition with NifDK and funneling electrons to the most efficient nitrogenase.

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