Structure and function of photosystem I and its application in biomimetic solar-to-fuel systems.
In order to generate renewable and clean fuels, increasing efforts are focused on the exploitation of photosynthetic microorganisms for the production of molecular hydrogen from water and light. In this study we engineered a 'hard-wired' protein complex consisting of a hydrogenase and photosystem I (hydrogenase-PSI complex) as a direct light-to-hydrogen conversion system. The key component was an artificial fusion protein composed of the membrane-bound [NiFe] hydrogenase from the beta-proteobacterium Ralstonia eutropha H16 and the peripheral PSI subunit PsaE of the cyanobacterium Thermosynechococcus elongatus. The resulting hydrogenase-PsaE fusion protein associated with PsaE-free PSI spontaneously, thereby forming a hydrogenase-PSI complex as confirmed by sucrose-gradient ultracentrifuge and immunoblot analysis. The hydrogenase-PSI complex displayed light-driven hydrogen production at a rate of 0.58 mumol H(2).mg chlorophyll(-1).h(-1). The complex maintained its accessibility to the native electron acceptor ferredoxin. This study provides the first example of a light-driven enzymatic reaction by an artificial complex between a redox enzyme and photosystem I and represents an important step on the way to design a photosynthetic organism that efficiently converts solar energy and water into hydrogen.