The expression of selected nitrogen fixation (nif) genes from Klebsiella pneumoniae in foreign hosts provides an approach to determine the pathway, minimal genetic requirements, and host dependence of nitrogenase assembly. In this study, we investigated the assembly of the alpha 2 beta 2 MoFe protein, responsible for substrate binding and reduction, by introducing nifD and nifK (encoding respectively, the alpha and beta subunits) into Escherichia coli and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In E. coli, both genes were expressed from the nifHDKY operon; in yeast, the genes, separately fused to the yeast ADH1 promoter, were introduced on two different plasmids. Denaturing immunoblot analyses demonstrated the presence of significant amounts of NifD and NifK in both hosts. In E. coli, the level or perhaps modification of NifD depended on the growth medium of the bacteria. Nondenaturing, anaerobic immunoblot assays revealed in E. coli, nif-specific antigens of lower electrophoretic mobility than Kp1, which may represent assembly intermediates. In yeast, no putative assembled products were evident, and the predominant antigens corresponded to the monomeric forms of the polypeptides. These results indicate that, unlike NifH, the Fe protein subunit (Berman, J., Gershoni, J. M., and Zamir, A. (1985) J. Biol. Chem. 260, 5240-5243), NifD and NifK are insufficient for the assembly of an electrophoretically Kp1-like structure. Homodimerization of nifK and probably of nifD primary gene products does not appear to occur spontaneously and hence is unlikely to represent the initial step in the assembly. The difference between the two hosts suggests that the cellular environment or mode of expression could affect the interaction between the two subunits.
|Number of pages
|Journal of Biological Chemistry
|Published - 25 Jun 1987