Reductive activation in periplasmic nitrate reductase involves chemical modifications of the Mo-cofactor beyond the first coordination sphere of the metal ion

JG Jacques; V Foumond; P Arnoux; M Sabaty; E Etienne; S Grosse; F Biaso; P Bertrand; D Pignol; C Léger; B Guigliarelli; B Burlat

In Rhodobacter sphaeroides periplasmic nitrate reductase NapAB, the major Mo(V) form (the “high g” species) in air-purified samples is inactive and requires reduction to irreversibly convert into a catalytically competent form (Fourmond et al., J. Phys. Chem., 2008). In the present work, we study the kinetics of the activation process by combining EPR spectroscopy and direct electrochemistry. Upon reduction, the Mo (V) “high g” resting EPR signal slowly decays while the other redox centers of the protein are rapidly reduced, which we interpret as a slow and gated (or coupled) intramolecular electron transfer between the [4Fe–4S] center and the Mo cofactor in the inactive enzyme. Besides, we detect spin–spin interactions between the Mo(V) ion and the [4Fe–4S]1 + cluster which are modified upon activation of the enzyme, while the EPR signatures associated to the Mo cofactor remain almost unchanged. This shows that the activation process, which modifies the exchange coupling pathway between the Mo and the [4Fe–4S]1 + centers, occurs further away than in the first coordination sphere of the Mo ion. Relying on structural data and studies on Mo-pyranopterin and models, we propose a molecular mechanism of activation which involves the pyranopterin moiety of the molybdenum cofactor that is proximal to the [4Fe–4S] cluster. The mechanism implies both the cyclization of the pyran ring and the reduction of the oxidized pterin to give the competent tricyclic tetrahydropyranopterin form.

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