Genome data mining and soil survey for the novel group 5 [NiFe]-hydrogenase to explore the diversity and ecological importance of presumptive high affinity H2-oxidizing bacteria

Philippe Constant, Soumitra Paul Chowdhury, Laura Hesse, Jennifer Pratscher, Ralf Conrad

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Streptomyces soil isolates exhibiting the unique ability to oxidize atmospheric H2 possess genes specifying a putative high-affinity [NiFe]-hydrogenase. This study was undertaken to explore the taxonomic diversity and the ecological importance of this novel functional group. We propose to designate the genes encoding the small and large subunits of the putative high-affinity hydrogenase hhyS and hhyL, respectively. Genome data mining revealed that the hhyL gene is unevenly distributed in the phyla Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Chloroflexi, and Acidobacteria. The hhyL gene sequences comprised a phylogenetically distinct group, namely, the group 5 [NiFe]-hydrogenase genes. The presumptive high-affinity H2-oxidizing bacteria constituting group 5 were shown to possess a hydrogenase gene cluster, including the genes encoding auxiliary and structural components of the enzyme and four additional open reading frames (ORFs) of unknown function. A soil survey confirmed that both high-affinity H2 oxidation activity and the hhyL gene are ubiquitous. A quantitative PCR assay revealed that soil contained 106 to 108 hhyL gene copies g (dry weight)−1. Assuming one hhyL gene copy per genome, the abundance of presumptive high-affinity H2-oxidizing bacteria was higher than the maximal population size for which maintenance energy requirements would be fully supplied through the H2 oxidation activity measured in soil. Our data indicate that the abundance of the hhyL gene should not be taken as a reliable proxy for the uptake of atmospheric H2 by soil, because high-affinity H2 oxidation is a facultatively mixotrophic metabolism, and microorganisms harboring a nonfunctional group 5 [NiFe]-hydrogenase may occur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6027-6035
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011

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