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The vnf-encoded nitrogenase from Azotobacter vinelandii contains an iron-vanadium cofactor (FeV-co) in its active site. Little is known about the synthesis pathway of FeV-co, other than that some of the gene products required are also involved in the synthesis of the iron-molybdenum cofactor (FeMo-co) of the widely studied molybdenum-dinitrogenase. We have found that VnfX, the gene product of one of the genes contained in the vnf-regulon, accumulates iron and vanadium in a novel V-Fe cluster during synthesis of FeV-co. The electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) and metal analyses of the V-Fe cluster accumulated on VnfX are consistent with a VFe7-8Sx precursor of FeV-co. The EPR spectrum of VnfX with the V-Fe cluster bound strongly resembles that of isolated FeV-co and a model VFe3S4 compound. The V-Fe cluster accumulating on VnfX does not contain homocitrate. No accumulation of V-Fe cluster on VnfX was observed in strains with deletions in genes known to be involved in the early steps of FeV-co synthesis, suggesting that it corresponds to a precursor of FeV-co. VnfX purified from a nifB strain incapable of FeV-co synthesis has a different electrophoretic mobility in native anoxic gels than does VnfX, which has the V-Fe cluster bound. NifB-co, the Fe and S precursor of FeMo-co (and presumably FeV-co), binds to VnfX purified from the nifB strain, producing a shift in its electrophoretic mobility on anoxic native gels. The data suggest that a precursor of FeV-co that contains vanadium and iron accumulates on VnfX, and thus, VnfX is involved in the synthesis of FeV-co.


C Rüttimann-Johnson, C R Staples, P Rangaraj, V K Shah, P W Ludden. A vanadium and iron cluster accumulates on VnfX during iron-vanadium-cofactor synthesis for the vanadium nitrogenase in Azotobacter vinelandii. The Journal of biological chemistry. 1999 Jun 18;274(25):18087-92

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PMID: 10364262

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