Nickel serves as a substrate recognition motif for the endopeptidase involved in hydrogenase maturation
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The interaction of the hydrogenase maturation endopeptidase HycI with its substrate, the precursor of the large subunit, was studied. Replacement of conserved amino-acid residues in HycI, which have been shown to bind a cadmium ion from the crystallization buffer in crystals of HybD (endopeptidase for hydrogenase 2), abolished or strongly reduced processing activity. Atomic absorption spectroscopy of purified HycI and HybD proteins showed the absence of nickel. In vitro processing assays showed that the reaction requires nickel to be bound to the precursor and the protease does not have a function in nickel delivery to the substrate. Radioactive labelling of cells with 63Ni, devoid of endopeptidase, resolved several forms of the precursor which are possibly intermediates in the maturation pathway. It is concluded that the endopeptidase uses the metal in the large subunit of [NiFe]-hydrogenases as a recognition motif.
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