Protein engineering of hydrogenase 3 to enhance hydrogen production

Toshinari Maeda, Viviana Sanchez-Torres, Thomas K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The large subunit (HycE, 569 amino acids) of Escherichia coli hydrogenase 3 produces hydrogen from formate via its Ni-Fe-binding site. In this paper, we engineered HycE for enhanced hydrogen production by an error-prone polymerase chain reaction (epPCR) using a host that lacked hydrogenase activity via the hyaB hybC hycE mutations. Seven enhanced HycE variants were obtained with a novel chemochromic membrane screen that directly detected hydrogen from individual colonies. The best epPCR variant contained eight mutations (S2T, Y50F, I171T, A291V, T366S, V433L, M444I, and L523Q) and had 17-fold higher hydrogen-producing activity than wild-type HycE. In addition, this variant had eightfold higher hydrogen yield from formate compared to wild-type HycE. Deoxyribonucleic acid shuffling using the three most-active HycE variants created a variant that has 23-fold higher hydrogen production and ninefold higher yield on formate due to a 74-amino acid carboxy-terminal truncation. Saturation mutagenesis at T366 of HycE also led to increased hydrogen production via a truncation at this position; hence, 204 amino acids at the carboxy terminus may be deleted to increase hydrogen production by 30-fold. This is the first random protein engineering of a hydrogenase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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