P Ceccaldi, J Rendon, Ch Léger, R Toci, B Guigliarelli, A Magalon, S Grimaldi, V Fourmond, BBA – Bioenergetics (2015) doi:10.1016/j.bbabio.2015.06.007
Over the past decades, a number of authors have reported the presence of inactive species in as-prepared samples of members of the Mo/W-bisPGD enzyme family. This greatly complicated the spectroscopic studies of these enzymes, since it is impossible to discriminate between active and inactive species on the basis of the spectroscopic signatures alone. Escherichia coli nitrate reductase A (NarGHI) is a member of the Mo/W-bisPGD family that allows anaerobic respiration using nitrate as terminal electron acceptor. Here, using protein film voltammetry on NarGH films, we show that the enzyme is purified in a functionally heterogeneous form that contains between 20 and 40% of inactive species that activate the first time they are reduced. This activation proceeds in two steps: a non-redox reversible reaction followed by an irreversible reduction. By carefully correlating electrochemical and EPR spectroscopic data, we show that neither the two major Mo(V) signals nor those of the two FeS clusters that are the closest to the Mo center are associated with the two inactive species. We also conclusively exclude the possibility that the major “low-pH” and “high-pH” Mo(V) EPR signatures correspond to species in acid–base equilibrium.