Rodrigo Arias-Cartin, Pierre Ceccaldi, Barbara Schoepp-Cothenet, Klaudia Frick, Jean-Michel Blanc, Bruno Guigliarelli, Anne Walburger, Stéphane Grimaldi, Thorsten Friedrich, Véronique Receveur-Brechot, Axel Magalon. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 37743 (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep37743
A major gap of knowledge in metalloproteins is the identity of the prefolded state of the protein before cofactor insertion. This holds for molybdoenzymes serving multiple purposes for life, especially in energy harvesting. This large group of prokaryotic enzymes allows for coordination of molybdenum or tungsten cofactors (Mo/W-bisPGD) and Fe/S clusters. Here we report the structural data on a cofactor-less enzyme, the nitrate reductase respiratory complex and characterize the conformational changes accompanying Mo/W-bisPGD and Fe/S cofactors insertion. Identified conformational changes are shown to be essential for recognition of the dedicated chaperone involved in cofactors insertion. A solvent-exposed salt bridge is shown to play a key role in enzyme folding after cofactors insertion. Furthermore, this salt bridge is shown to be strictly conserved within this prokaryotic molybdoenzyme family as deduced from a phylogenetic analysis issued from 3D structure-guided multiple sequence alignment. A biochemical analysis with a distantly-related member of the family, respiratory complex I, confirmed the critical importance of the salt bridge for folding. Overall, our results point to a conserved cofactors insertion mechanism within the Mo/W-bisPGD family.