Electron bifurcation plays a key role in anaerobic energy metabolism, but it is a relatively new discovery, and only limited mechanistic information is available on the diverse enzymes that employ it. Herein, we focused on the bifurcating electron transfer flavoprotein (ETF) from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrobaculum aerophilum. The EtfABCX enzyme complex couples NADH oxidation to the endergonic reduction of ferredoxin and exergonic reduction of menaquinone. We developed a model for the enzyme structure by using nondenaturing MS, cross-linking, and homology modeling in which EtfA, -B, and -C each contained FAD, whereas EtfX contained two [4Fe-4S] clusters. On the basis of analyses using transient absorption, EPR, and optical titrations with NADH or inorganic reductants with and without NAD+, we propose a catalytic cycle involving formation of an intermediary NAD+-bound complex. A charge transfer signal revealed an intriguing interplay of flavin semiquinones and a protein conformational change that gated electron transfer between the low- and high-potential pathways. We found that despite a common bifurcating flavin site, the proposed EtfABCX catalytic cycle is distinct from that of the genetically unrelated bifurcating NADH-dependent ferredoxin NADP+ oxidoreductase (NfnI). The two enzymes particularly differed in the role of NAD+, the resting and bifurcating-ready states of the enzymes, how electron flow is gated, and the two two-electron cycles constituting the overall four-electron reaction. We conclude that P. aerophilum EtfABCX provides a model catalytic mechanism that builds on and extends previous studies of related bifurcating ETFs and can be applied to the large bifurcating ETF family.

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Published in Journal of Biological Chemistry, v. 294, no. 9, 3271-3283.

This research was originally published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Gerrit J. Schut, Nishya Mohamed-Raseek, Monika Tokmina-Lukaszewska, David W. Mulder, Diep M. N. Nguyen,Gina L. Lipscomb, John P. Hoben, Angela Patterson, Carolyn E. Lubner, Paul W. King, John W. Peters, Brian Bothner, Anne-Frances Miller, and Michael W. W. Adams. The catalytic mechanism of electron-bifurcating electron transfer flavoproteins (ETFs) involves an intermediary complex with NAD+. J. Biol. Chem. 2019;294:3271-3283. Copyright © 2019 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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This work and all authors were supported as part of the Biological and Electron Transfer and Catalysis (BETCy) EFRC, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the United States Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences under Award DE-SC0012518. Additional support was provided by the Research Challenge Trust fund of Kentucky (NM-R) and by the “Unifying Concepts in Catalysis” cluster of excellence (UNICAT) and the Technische Universität-Berlin (to A.-F. M.). This work was authored in part by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, operated by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under Contract No. DE-AC36–08GO28308 (to D. W. M., C. E. L., and P. W. K.). Funding for TAS and EPR measurements provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences (D. W. M., C. E. L., and P. W. K.).

The Mass Spectrometry Facility at Montana State University is supported in part by the Murdock Charitable Trust and National Institutes of Health IDEA Program Grant P20GM103474.

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This article contains Tables S1 and S2 and Figs. S1–S13.

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Supporting Information: Supplemental Figures S1-S13

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Supporting Information: Supplemental Tables S1 and S2