Enzymatic and spectroscopic properties of a thermostable [NiFe]‑hydrogenase performing H2-driven NAD+-reduction in the presence of O2.
[NiFe]-hydrogenases bind a NiFe-(CN)2CO cofactor in their catalytic large subunit. The iron-sulfur protein HypD and the small accessory protein HypC play a central role in the generation of the CO and CN(-) ligands. Infrared spectroscopy identified signatures on an anaerobically isolated HypCD complex that are reminiscent of those in the hydrogenase active site, suggesting that this complex is the assembly site of the Fe-(CN)2CO moiety of the cofactor prior to its transfer to the hydrogenase large subunit. Here, we report that HypD isolated in the absence of HypC shows infrared bands at 1956 cm(-1), 2072 cm(-1), and 2092 cm(-1) that can be assigned to CO, CN(1), and CN(2), respectively, and which are indistinguishable from those observed for the HypCD complex. HypC could not be isolated with CO or CN(-) ligand contribution. Treatment of HypD with EDTA led to the concomitant loss of Fe and the CO and CN(-) signatures, while oxidation by H2O2 resulted in a positive shift of the CO and CN(-) bands by 35 cm(-1) and 20 cm(-1), respectively, indicative of the ferrous iron as an immediate ligation site for the diatomic ligands. Analysis of HypD amino acid variants identified cysteines 41, 69, and 72 to be essential for maturation of the cofactor. We propose a refined model for the ligation of Fe-(CN)2CO to HypD and the role of HypC in [NiFe]-hydrogenase maturation.