Biosynthesis of the nitrogenase active-site cofactor precursor NifB-co in Saccharomyces cerevisiae


The radical S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) enzyme NifB occupies a central and essential position in nitrogenase biogenesis. NifB catalyzes the formation of an [8Fe-9S-C] cluster, called NifB-co, which constitutes the core of the active-site cofactors for all 3 nitrogenase types. Here, we produce functional NifB in aerobically cultured Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Combinatorial pathway design was employed to construct 62 strains in which transcription units driving different expression levels of mitochondria-targeted nif genes (nifUSXB and fdxN) were integrated into the chromosome. Two combinatorial libraries totaling 0.7 Mb were constructed: An expression library of 6 partial clusters, including nifUSX and fdxN, and a library consisting of 28 different nifB genes mined from the Structure–Function Linkage Database and expressed at different levels according to a factorial design. We show that coexpression in yeast of the nitrogenase maturation proteins NifU, NifS, and FdxN from Azotobacter vinelandii with NifB from the archaea Methanocaldococcus infernus or Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus yields NifB proteins equipped with [Fe-S] clusters that, as purified, support in vitro formation of NifB-co. Proof of in vivo NifB-co formation was additionally obtained. NifX as purified from aerobically cultured S. cerevisiae coexpressing M. thermautotrophicus NifB with A. vinelandii NifU, NifS, and FdxN, and engineered yeast SAM synthase supported FeMo-co synthesis, indicative of NifX carrying in vivo-formed NifB-co. This study defines the minimal genetic determinants for the formation of the key precursor in the nitrogenase cofactor biosynthetic pathway in a eukaryotic organism.



nitrogen fixation, synthetic biology, nif genes, combinatorial design, mitochondria, IRON-MOLYBDENUM COFACTOR, IN-VITRO SYNTHESIS, AZOTOBACTER-VINELANDII, MOFE-PROTEIN, PURIFICATION, EXPRESSION, CLUSTER, SULFUR, IDENTIFICATION, PRODUCT, combinatorial design, mitochondria, nif genes, nitrogen fixation, synthetic biology