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Portela, PC, Shipps CC, Shen C, Srikanth V, Salgueiro CA, Malvankar NS.  2024.  Widespread extracellular electron transfer pathways for charging microbial cytochrome OmcS nanowires via periplasmic cytochromes PpcABCDE, 2024. 15(1):2434. AbstractWebsite

Extracellular electron transfer (EET) via microbial nanowires drives globally-important environmental processes and biotechnological applications for bioenergy, bioremediation, and bioelectronics. Due to highly-redundant and complex EET pathways, it is unclear how microbes wire electrons rapidly (>106 s−1) from the inner-membrane through outer-surface nanowires directly to an external environment despite a crowded periplasm and slow (<105 s−1) electron diffusion among periplasmic cytochromes. Here, we show that Geobacter sulfurreducens periplasmic cytochromes PpcABCDE inject electrons directly into OmcS nanowires by binding transiently with differing efficiencies, with the least-abundant cytochrome (PpcC) showing the highest efficiency. Remarkably, this defined nanowire-charging pathway is evolutionarily conserved in phylogenetically-diverse bacteria capable of EET. OmcS heme reduction potentials are within 200 mV of each other, with a midpoint 82 mV-higher than reported previously. This could explain efficient EET over micrometres at ultrafast (<200 fs) rates with negligible energy loss. Engineering this minimal nanowire-charging pathway may yield microbial chassis with improved performance.

Ferreira, MR, Morgado L, Salgueiro CA.  2024.  Periplasmic electron transfer network in Geobacter sulfurreducens revealed by biomolecular interaction studies. Protein Science. 33:e5082., Number 7 AbstractWebsite

Abstract Multiheme cytochromes located in different compartments are crucial for extracellular electron transfer in the bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens to drive important environmental processes and biotechnological applications. Recent studies have unveiled that for particular sets of electron terminal acceptors, discrete respiratory pathways selectively recruit specific cytochromes from both the inner and outer membranes. However, such specificity was not observed for the abundant periplasmic cytochromes, namely the triheme cytochrome family PpcA-E. In this work, the distinctive NMR spectroscopic signatures of these proteins in different redox states were explored to monitor pairwise interactions and electron transfer reactions between each pair of cytochromes. The results showed that the five proteins interact transiently and can exchange electrons between each other revealing intra-promiscuity within the members of this family. This discovery is discussed in the light of the establishment of an effective electron transfer network by this pool of cytochromes. This network is advantageous to the bacteria as it enables the maintenance of the functional working potential redox range within the cells.

Silva, MA, Fernandes AP, Turner DL, Salgueiro CA.  2023.  A Biochemical Deconstruction-Based Strategy to Assist the Characterization of Bacterial Electric Conductive Filaments. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 24, Number 8 AbstractWebsite

Periplasmic nanowires and electric conductive filaments made of the polymeric assembly of c-type cytochromes from Geobacter sulfurreducens bacterium are crucial for electron storage and/or extracellular electron transfer. The elucidation of the redox properties of each heme is fundamental to the understanding of the electron transfer mechanisms in these systems, which first requires the specific assignment of the heme NMR signals. The high number of hemes and the molecular weight of the nanowires dramatically decrease the spectral resolution and make this assignment extremely complex or unattainable. The nanowire cytochrome GSU1996 ( 42 kDa) is composed of four domains (A to D) each containing three c-type heme groups. In this work, the individual domains (A to D), bi-domains (AB, CD) and full-length nanowire were separately produced at natural abundance. Sufficient protein expression was obtained for domains C ( 11 kDa/three hemes) and D ( 10 kDa/three hemes), as well as for bi-domain CD ( 21 kDa/six hemes). Using 2D-NMR experiments, the assignment of the heme proton NMR signals for domains C and D was obtained and then used to guide the assignment of the corresponding signals in the hexaheme bi-domain CD. This new biochemical deconstruction-based procedure, using nanowire GSU1996 as a model, establishes a new strategy to functionally characterize large multiheme cytochromes.

Pimenta, AI, Paquete CM, Morgado L, Edwards MJ, Clarke TA, Salgueiro CA, Pereira IAC, Duarte AG.  2023.  Characterization of the inner membrane cytochrome ImcH from Geobacter reveals its importance for extracellular electron transfer and energy conservation. Protein Science. 32:e4796., Number 11 AbstractWebsite

Abstract Electroactive bacteria combine the oxidation of carbon substrates with an extracellular electron transfer (EET) process that discharges electrons to an electron acceptor outside the cell. This process involves electron transfer through consecutive redox proteins that efficiently connect the inner membrane to the cell exterior. In this study, we isolated and characterized the quinone-interacting membrane cytochrome c ImcH from Geobacter sulfurreducens, which is involved in the EET process to high redox potential acceptors. Spectroscopic and electrochemical studies show that ImcH hemes have low midpoint redox potentials, ranging from −150 to −358 mV, and connect the oxidation of the quinol-pool to EET, transferring electrons to the highly abundant periplasmic cytochrome PpcA with higher affinity than to its homologues. Despite the larger number of hemes and transmembrane helices, the ImcH structural model has similarities with the NapC/NirT/NrfH superfamily, namely the presence of a quinone-binding site on the P-side of the membrane. In addition, the first heme, likely involved on the quinol oxidation, has apparently an unusual His/Gln coordination. Our work suggests that ImcH is electroneutral and transfers electrons and protons to the same side of the membrane, contributing to the maintenance of a proton motive force and playing a central role in recycling the menaquinone pool.

Portela, PC, Morgado L, Silva MA, Denkhaus L, Einsle O, Salgueiro CA.  2023.  Exploring oxidative stress pathways in Geobacter sulfurreducens: the redox network between MacA peroxidase and triheme periplasmic cytochromes. Frontiers in Microbiology. 14 AbstractWebsite

The recent reclassification of the strict anaerobe Geobacter sulfurreducens bacterium as aerotolerant brought attention for oxidative stress protection pathways. Although the electron transfer pathways for oxygen detoxification are not well established, evidence was obtained for the formation of a redox complex between the periplasmic triheme cytochrome PpcA and the diheme cytochrome peroxidase MacA. In the latter, the reduction of the high-potential heme triggers a conformational change that displaces the axial histidine of the low-potential heme with peroxidase activity. More recently, a possible involvement of the triheme periplasmic cytochrome family (PpcA-E) in the protection from oxidative stress in G. sulfurreducens was suggested. To evaluate this hypothesis, we investigated the electron transfer reaction and the biomolecular interaction between each PpcA-E cytochrome and MacA. Using a newly developed method that relies on the different NMR spectral signatures of the heme proteins, we directly monitored the electron transfer reaction from reduced PpcA-E cytochromes to oxidized MacA. The results obtained showed a complete electron transfer from the cytochromes to the high-potential heme of MacA. This highlights PpcA-E cytochromes’ efficient role in providing the necessary reducing power to mitigate oxidative stress situations, hence contributing to a better knowledge of oxidative stress protection pathways in G. sulfurreducens.

Fernandes, TM, Silva MA, Morgado L, Salgueiro CA.  2023.  Hemes on a string: insights on the functional mechanisms of PgcA from Geobacter sulfurreducens. Journal of Biological Chemistry. :105167. AbstractWebsite

Microbial extracellular reduction of insoluble compounds requires soluble electron shuttles that diffuse in the extracellular environment, freely diffusing cytochromes or direct contact with cellular conductive appendages that release or harvest electrons to assure a continuous balance between cellular requirements and environmental conditions. In this work, we produced and characterized the three cytochrome domains of PgcA, an extracellular triheme cytochrome that contributes to Fe(III) and Mn(IV) oxides reduction in Geobacter sulfurreducens. The three domains are structurally homologous, but their heme groups show variable axial coordination and reduction potential values. Electron transfer experiments monitored by NMR and visible spectroscopy show the variable extent to which the domains promiscuously exchange electrons, while reducing different electron acceptors. The results suggest that PgcA is part of a new class of cytochromes - microbial heme-tethered redox strings - that use low-complexity protein stretches to bind metals and promote intra- and intermolecular electron transfer events through its cytochrome domains.

Paquete, CM, Morgado L, Salgueiro CA, Louro RO.  2022.  Molecular Mechanisms of Microbial Extracellular Electron Transfer: The Importance of Multiheme Cytochromes, 2022-06-27. FBL. 27(6) AbstractWebsite

Extracellular electron transfer is a key metabolic process of many organismsthat enables them to exchange electrons with extracellular electrondonors/acceptors. The discovery of organisms with these abilities and theunderstanding of their electron transfer processes has become a priority for thescientific and industrial community, given the growing interest on the use ofthese organisms in sustainable biotechnological processes. For example, inbioelectrochemical systems electrochemical active organisms can exchangeelectrons with an electrode, allowing the production of energy and added-valuecompounds, among other processes. In these systems, electrochemical activeorganisms exchange electrons with an electrode through direct or indirectmechanisms, using, in most cases, multiheme cytochromes. In numerouselectroactive organisms, these proteins form a conductive pathway that allowselectrons produced from cellular metabolism to be transferred across the cellsurface for the reduction of an electrode, or vice-versa. Here, the mechanisms bywhich the most promising electroactive bacteria perform extracellular electrontransfer will be reviewed, emphasizing the proteins involved in these pathways.The ability of some of the organisms to perform bidirectional electron transferand the pathways used will also be highlighted.

Morgado, L, Salgueiro CA.  2022.  Elucidation of complex respiratory chains: a straightforward strategy to monitor electron transfer between cytochromes, 02. Metallomics. AbstractWebsite

{Cytochromes are electron transfer proteins essential in various biological systems, playing crucial roles in the respiratory chains of bacteria. These proteins are particularly abundant in electrogenic microorganisms and are responsible for the efficient delivery of electrons to the cells’ exterior. The capability of sending electron outside the cells open new avenues to be explored for emerging biotechnological applications in bioremediation, microbial electrosynthesis and bioenergy fields. To develop these applications, it is critical to identify the different redox partners and elucidate the stepwise electron transfer along the respiratory paths. However, investigating direct electron transfer events between proteins with identical features in nearly all spectroscopic techniques is extremely challenging. NMR spectroscopy offers the possibility to overcome this difficulty by analysing the alterations of the spectral signatures of each protein caused by electron exchange events. The uncrowded NMR spectral regions containing the heme resonances of the cytochromes display unique and distinct signatures in the reduced and oxidized states, which can be explored to monitor electron transfer within the redox complex. In this study, we present a strategy for a fast and straightforward monitorization of electron transfer between c-type cytochromes, using as model a triheme periplasmic cytochrome (PpcA) and a membrane associated monoheme cytochrome (OmcF) from the electrogenic bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens. The comparison between the 1D 1H NMR spectra obtained for samples containing the two cytochromes and for samples containing the individual proteins clearly demonstrated a unidirectional electron transfer within the redox complex. This strategy provides a simple and straightforward means to elucidate complex biologic respiratory electron transfer chains.}

Teixeira, LR, Fernandes TM, Silva MA, Morgado L, Salgueiro CA.  2022.  Characterization of a novel cytochrome involved in Geobacter sulfurreducens’ electron harvesting pathways. Chemistry – A European Journal. n/a, Number n/a AbstractWebsite

Electron harvesting bacteria are key targets to develop microbial electrosynthesis technologies, which are valid alternatives for the production of value-added compounds without utilization of fossil fuels. Geobacter sulfurreducens, that is capable of donating and accepting electrons from electrodes, is one of the most promising electroactive bacteria. Its electron transfer mechanisms to electrodes have been progressively elucidated, however the electron harvesting pathways are still poorly understood. Previous studies showed that the periplasmic cytochromes PccH and GSU2515 are overexpressed in current-consuming G. sulfurreducens biofilms. PccH was characterized, though no putative partners have been identified. In this work, GSU2515 was characterized by complementary biophysical techniques and in silico simulations using the AlphaFold neural network. GSU2515 is a low-spin monoheme cytochrome with a disordered N-terminal region and an α-helical C-terminal domain harboring the heme group. The cytochrome undergoes a redox-linked heme axial ligand switch, with Met91 and His94 as distal axial ligand in the reduced and oxidized state, respectively. The reduction potential of the cytochrome is negative and is modulated by the pH in the physiological range: -78 mV at pH 6 and -113 mV at pH 7. Such pH-dependence coupled to the redox-linked switch of the axial ligand allows the cytochrome to drive a proton-coupled electron transfer step that is crucial to confer directionality to the respiratory chain. Biomolecular interactions and electron transfer experiments indicated that GSU2515 and PccH form a redox complex. Overall, the data obtained highlights for the first time how periplasmic proteins bridge the electron transfer between the outer and inner membrane in the electron harvesting pathways of G. sulfurreducens.

Karamash, M, Stumpe M, Dengjel J, Salgueiro CA, Giese B, Fromm KM.  2022.  Reduction Kinetic of Water Soluble Metal Salts by Geobacter sulfurreducens: Fe2+/Hemes Stabilize and Regulate Electron Flux Rates. Frontiers in Microbiology. 13 AbstractWebsite

Geobacter sulfurreducens is a widely applied microorganism for the reduction of toxic metal salts, as an electron source for bioelectrochemical devices, and as a reagent for the synthesis of nanoparticles. In order to understand the influence of metal salts, and of electron transporting, multiheme c-cytochromes on the electron flux during respiration of G. sulfurreducens, the reduction kinetic of Fe3+, Co3+, V5+, Cr6+, and Mn7+ containing complexes were measured. Starting from the resting phase, each G. sulfurreducens cell produced an electron flux of 3.7 × 105 electrons per second during the respiration process. Reduction rates were within ± 30% the same for the 6 different metal salts, and reaction kinetics were of zero order. Decrease of c-cytochrome concentrations by downregulation and mutation demonstrated that c-cytochromes stabilized respiration rates by variation of their redox states. Increasing Fe2+/heme levels increased electron flux rates, and induced respiration flexibility. The kinetic effects parallel electrochemical results of G. sulfurreducens biofilms on electrodes, and might help to optimize bioelectrochemical devices.

Antunes, JMA, Silva MA, Salgueiro CA, Morgado L.  2022.  Electron Flow From the Inner Membrane Towards the Cell Exterior in Geobacter sulfurreducens: Biochemical Characterization of Cytochrome CbcL. Frontiers in Microbiology. 13 AbstractWebsite

Exoelectrogenic microorganisms are in the spotlight due to their unique respiratory mechanisms and potential applications in distinct biotechnological fields, including bioremediation, bioenergy production and microbial electrosynthesis. These applications rely on the capability of these microorganisms to perform extracellular electron transfer, a mechanism that allows the bacteria to transfer electrons to the cell’s exterior by establishing functional interfaces between different multiheme cytochromes at the inner membrane, periplasmic space, and outer membrane. The multiheme cytochrome CbcL from Geobacter sulfurreducens is associated to the inner membrane and plays an essential role in the transfer of electrons to final electron acceptors with a low redox potential, as Fe(III) oxides and electrodes poised at −100 mV. CbcL has a transmembranar di-heme b-type cytochrome domain with six helices, linked to a periplasmic cytochrome domain with nine c-type heme groups. The complementary usage of ultraviolet-visible, circular dichroism and nuclear magnetic resonance permitted the structural and functional characterization of CbcL’s periplasmic domain. The protein was found to have a high percentage of disordered regions and its nine hemes are low-spin and all coordinated by two histidine residues. The apparent midpoint reduction potential of the CbcL periplasmic domain was determined, suggesting a thermodynamically favorable transfer of electrons to the putative redox partner in the periplasm − the triheme cytochrome PpcA. The establishment of a redox complex between the two proteins was confirmed by probing the electron transfer reaction and the molecular interactions between CbcL and PpcA. The results obtained show for the first time how electrons are injected into the periplasm of Geobacter sulfurreducens for subsequent transfer to the cell’s exterior.

Salgueiro, CA, Morgado L, Silva MA, Ferreira MR, Fernandes TM, Portela PC.  2022.  From iron to bacterial electroconductive filaments: Exploring cytochrome diversity using Geobacter bacteria. Coordination Chemistry Reviews. 452:214284. AbstractWebsite

Iron is the most versatile of all biochemically active metals, with variability encompassing its electronic configuration, number of unpaired electrons, type of ligands and iron-complexes stability. The versatility of iron properties is transposed to the proteins it can be associated to, especially relevant in the case of heme proteins. In this Review, the structural and functional properties of heme proteins are revisited, with particular focus on c-type cytochromes. The genome of Geobacter bacteria encodes for an unusually high number of assorted c-type cytochromes and, for this reason, they are used in this Review as a showcase of the cytochrome diversity. In the last decades, a vast portfolio of cytochromes has been revealed in these bacteria, with most of them defining new classes, ranging from monoheme to the recently identified polymeric assembly of multiheme cytochromes that forms micrometer-long electrically conductive filaments. These discoveries were on pace with the development of modern NMR equipment and advances in protein isotopic labeling methods, which are also revisited in this Review. Finally, following the description of the current state of the art of Geobacter cytochromes, examples on how the available structural and functional information was explored to structurally map protein–protein and protein–ligand interacting regions in redox complexes, and hence elucidate Geobacter’s respiratory pathways, are presented.

Ferreira, MR, Fernandes TM, Turner DL, Salgueiro CA.  2022.  Molecular geometries of the heme axial ligands from the triheme cytochrome PpcF from Geobacter metallireducens reveal a conserved heme core architecture. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 723:109220. AbstractWebsite

Electroactive Geobacter bacteria can perform extracellular electron transfer and present a wide metabolic versatility. These bacteria reduce organic, toxic and radioactive compounds, and produce electric current while interacting with electrodes, making them interesting targets for numerous biotechnological applications. Their global electrochemical responses rely on an efficient interface between the inside and the cell's exterior, which is driven by the highly abundant periplasmic triheme PpcA-family cytochromes. The functional features of these cytochromes have been studied in G. sulfurreducens and G. metallireducens, and although they share a high degree of structural homology and sequence identity, their properties are quite distinct. In this work, the heme axial ligand geometries and the magnetic properties of PpcF from G. metallireducens were determined. The data obtained constitute important constraints for the determination of its solution structure in the oxidized state and indicate that the (i) heme core architecture; (ii) axial ligands geometries and (iii) magnetic properties of the cytochrome are conserved compared to the other members of the PpcA-families. Furthermore, the results also indicate that the heme arrangement is crucial to maintain an intrinsic regulation of the protein's redox properties and hence its electron transfer efficiency and functionality.

Silva, MA, Portela PC, Salgueiro CA.  2021.  Rational design of electron/proton transfer mechanisms in the exoelectrogenic bacteria Geobacter sulfurreducens, 07. Biochemical Journal. 478:2871-2887., Number 14 AbstractWebsite

{The redox potential values of cytochromes can be modulated by the protonation/deprotonation of neighbor groups (redox-Bohr effect), a mechanism that permits the proteins to couple electron/proton transfer. In the respiratory chains, this effect is particularly relevant if observed in the physiological pH range, as it may contribute to the electrochemical gradient for ATP synthesis. A constitutively produced family of five triheme cytochromes (PpcA−E) from the bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens plays a crucial role in extracellular electron transfer, a hallmark that permits this bacterium to be explored for several biotechnological applications. Two members of this family (PpcA and PpcD) couple electron/proton transfer in the physiological pH range, a feature not shared with PpcB and PpcE. That ability is crucial for G. sulfurreducens’ growth in Fe(III)-reducing habitats since extra contributors to the electrochemical gradient are needed. It was postulated that the redox-Bohr effect is determined by the nature of residue 6, a leucine in PpcA/PpcD and a phenylalanine in PpcB/PpcE. To confirm this hypothesis, Phe6 was replaced by leucine in PpcB and PpcE. The functional properties of these mutants were investigated by NMR and UV–visible spectroscopy to assess their capability to couple electron/proton transfer in the physiological pH range. The results obtained showed that the mutants have an increased redox-Bohr effect and are now capable of coupling electron/proton transfer. This confirms the determinant role of the nature of residue 6 in the modulation of the redox-Bohr effect in this family of cytochromes, opening routes to engineer Geobacter cells with improved biomass production.}

Silva, MA, Salgueiro CA.  2021.  Multistep Signaling in Nature: A Close-Up of Geobacter Chemotaxis Sensing. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 22, Number 16 AbstractWebsite

Environmental changes trigger the continuous adaptation of bacteria to ensure their survival. This is possible through a variety of signal transduction pathways involving chemoreceptors known as methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins (MCP) that allow the microorganisms to redirect their mobility towards favorable environments. MCP are two-component regulatory (or signal transduction) systems (TCS) formed by a sensor and a response regulator domain. These domains synchronize transient protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation events to convert the stimuli into an appropriate cellular response. In this review, the variability of TCS domains and the most common signaling mechanisms are highlighted. This is followed by the description of the overall cellular topology, classification and mechanisms of MCP. Finally, the structural and functional properties of a new family of MCP found in Geobacter sulfurreducens are revisited. This bacterium has a diverse repertoire of chemosensory systems, which represents a striking example of a survival mechanism in challenging environments. Two G. sulfurreducens MCP—GSU0582 and GSU0935—are members of a new family of chemotaxis sensor proteins containing a periplasmic PAS-like sensor domain with a c-type heme. Interestingly, the cellular location of this domain opens new routes to the understanding of the redox potential sensing signaling transduction pathways.

Fernandes, TM, Morgado L, Turner DL, Salgueiro CA.  2021.  Protein Engineering of Electron Transfer Components from Electroactive Geobacter Bacteria. Antioxidants. 10, Number 6 AbstractWebsite

Electrogenic microorganisms possess unique redox biological features, being capable of transferring electrons to the cell exterior and converting highly toxic compounds into nonhazardous forms. These microorganisms have led to the development of Microbial Electrochemical Technologies (METs), which include applications in the fields of bioremediation and bioenergy production. The optimization of these technologies involves efforts from several different disciplines, ranging from microbiology to materials science. Geobacter bacteria have served as a model for understanding the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon of extracellular electron transfer, which is highly dependent on a multitude of multiheme cytochromes (MCs). MCs are, therefore, logical targets for rational protein engineering to improve the extracellular electron transfer rates of these bacteria. However, the presence of several heme groups complicates the detailed redox characterization of MCs. In this Review, the main characteristics of electroactive Geobacter bacteria, their potential to develop microbial electrochemical technologies and the main features of MCs are initially highlighted. This is followed by a detailed description of the current methodologies that assist the characterization of the functional redox networks in MCs. Finally, it is discussed how this information can be explored to design optimal Geobacter-mutated strains with improved capabilities in METs.

Fernandes, TM, Folgosa F, Teixeira M, Salgueiro CA, Morgado L.  2021.  Structural and functional insights of GSU0105, a unique multiheme cytochrome from G. sulfurreducens. Biophysical Journal. AbstractWebsite

Geobacter sulfurreducens possesses over 100 cytochromes that assure an effective electron transfer to the cell exterior. The most abundant group of cytochromes in this microorganism is the PpcA family, composed of five periplasmic triheme cytochromes with high structural homology and identical heme coordination (His-His). GSU0105 is a periplasmic triheme cytochrome synthetized by G. sulfurreducens in Fe(III)-reducing conditions but is not present in cultures grown on fumarate. This cytochrome has a low sequence identity with the PpcA family cytochromes and a different heme coordination, based on the analysis of its amino acid sequence. In this work, amino acid sequence analysis, site-directed mutagenesis, and complementary biophysical techniques, including ultraviolet-visible, circular dichroism, electron paramagnetic resonance, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies, were used to characterize GSU0105. The cytochrome has a low percentage of secondary structural elements, with features of α-helices and β-sheets. Nuclear magnetic resonance shows that the protein contains three low-spin hemes (Fe(II), S = 0) in the reduced state. Electron paramagnetic resonance shows that, in the oxidized state, one of the hemes becomes high-spin (Fe(III), S = 5/2), whereas the two others remain low-spin (Fe(III), S = 1/2). The data obtained also indicate that the heme groups have distinct axial coordination. The apparent midpoint reduction potential of GSU0105 (−154 mV) is pH independent in the physiological range. However, the pH modulates the reduction potential of the heme that undergoes the low- to high-spin interconversion. The reduction potential values of cytochrome GSU0105 are more distinct compared to those of the PpcA family members, providing the protein with a larger functional working redox potential range. Overall, the results obtained, together with an amino acid sequence analysis of different multiheme cytochrome families, indicate that GSU0105 is a member of a new group of triheme cytochromes.

Portela, PC, Silva MA, Teixeira LR, Salgueiro CA.  2021.  A unique aromatic residue modulates the redox range of a periplasmic multiheme cytochrome from Geobacter metallireducens. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 296:100711. AbstractWebsite

Geobacter bacteria are able to transfer electrons to the exterior of the cell and reduce extracellular electron acceptors including toxic/radioactive metals and electrode surfaces, with potential applications in bioremediation or electricity harvesting. The triheme c-type cytochrome PpcA from Geobacter metallireducens plays a crucial role in bridging the electron transfer from the inner to the outer membrane, ensuring an effective extracellular electron transfer. This cytochrome shares 80% identity with PpcA from Geobacter sulfurreducens, but their redox properties are markedly different, thus determining the distinctive working redox potential ranges in the two bacteria. PpcA from G. metallireducens possesses two extra aromatic amino acids (Phe-6 and Trp-45) in its hydrophobic heme core, whereas PpcA from G. sulfurreducens has a leucine and a methionine in the equivalent positions. Given the different nature of these residues in the two cytochromes, we have hypothesized that the extra aromatic amino acids could be partially responsible for the observed functional differences. In this work, we have replaced Phe-6 and Trp-45 residues by their nonaromatic counterparts in PpcA from G. sulfurreducens. Using redox titrations followed by UV–visible and NMR spectroscopy we observed that residue Trp-45 shifted the redox potential range 33% toward that of PpcA from G. sulfurreducens, whereas Phe-6 produced a negligible effect. For the first time, it is shown that the inclusion of an aromatic residue at the heme core can modulate the working redox range in abundant periplasmic proteins, paving the way to engineer bacterial strains for optimal microbial bioelectrochemical applications.

Portela, PC, Dantas JM, Salgueiro CA.  2020.  Backbone, side chain and heme resonance assignment of the triheme cytochrome PpcA from Geobacter metallireducens in the oxidized state, 2020. Biomol NMR Assign. 14(1):31-36. AbstractWebsite

The bacterium Geobacter metallireducens is capable of transferring electrons to the cell exterior, a process designated extracellular electron transfer. This mechanism allows the microorganism to reduce extracellular acceptors such as Fe(III) (hydr)oxides and water toxic and/or radioactive contaminants including Cr(VI) and U(VI). It is also capable of oxidizing waste water aromatic organic compounds being an important microorganism for bioremediation of polluted waters. Extracellular electron transfer also allows electricity harvesting from microbial fuel cells, a promising sustainable form of energy production. However, extracellular electron transfer processes in this microorganism are still poorly characterized. The triheme c-type cytochrome PpcA from G. metallireducens is abundant in the periplasm and is crucial for electron transfer between the cytoplasm and the cell’s exterior. In this work, we report near complete assignment of backbone, side chain and heme resonances for PpcA in the oxidized state that will permit its structure determination and identification of interactions with physiological redox partners.

Chabert, V, Babel L, Füeg MP, Karamash M, Madivoli ES, Herault N, Dantas JM, Salgueiro CA, Giese B, Fromm KM.  2020.  Kinetics and Mechanism of Mineral Respiration: How Iron Hemes Synchronize Electron Transfer Rates. Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 59:12331-12336., Number 30 AbstractWebsite

Abstract Anaerobic microorganisms of the Geobacter genus are effective electron sources for the synthesis of nanoparticles, for bioremediation of polluted water, and for the production of electricity in fuel cells. In multistep reactions, electrons are transferred via iron/heme cofactors of c-type cytochromes from the inner cell membrane to extracellular metal ions, which are bound to outer membrane cytochromes. We measured electron production and electron flux rates to 5×105 e s−1 per G. sulfurreducens. Remarkably, these rates are independent of the oxidants, and follow zero order kinetics. It turned out that the microorganisms regulate electron flux rates by increasing their Fe2+/Fe3+ ratios in the multiheme cytochromes whenever the activity of the extracellular metal oxidants is diminished. By this mechanism the respiration remains constant even when oxidizing conditions are changing. This homeostasis is a vital condition for living systems, and makes G. sulfurreducens a versatile electron source.

Teixeira, LR, Cordas CM, Fonseca MP, Duke NEC, Pokkuluri PR, Salgueiro CA.  2020.  Modulation of the Redox Potential and Electron/Proton Transfer Mechanisms in the Outer Membrane Cytochrome OmcF From Geobacter sulfurreducens. Frontiers in Microbiology. 10:2941. AbstractWebsite

The monoheme outer membrane cytochrome F (OmcF) from Geobacter sulfurreducens plays an important role in Fe(III) reduction and electric current production. The electrochemical characterization of this cytochrome has shown that its redox potential is modulated by the solution pH (redox-Bohr effect) endowing the protein with the necessary properties to couple electron and proton transfer in the physiological range. The analysis of the OmcF structures in the reduced and oxidized states showed that with the exception of the side chain of histidine 47 (His47), all other residues with protonatable side chains are distant from the heme iron and, therefore, are unlikely to affect the redox potential of the protein. The protonatable site at the imidazole ring of His47 is in the close proximity to the heme and, therefore, this residue was suggested as the redox-Bohr center. In the present work, we tested this hypothesis by replacing the His47 with non-protonatable residues (isoleucine – OmcFH47I and phenylalanine – OmcFH47F). The structure of the mutant OmcFH47I was determined by X-ray crystallography to 1.13 Å resolution and showed only minimal changes at the site of the mutation. Both mutants were 15N-labeled and their overall folding was confirmed to be the same as the wild-type by NMR spectroscopy. The pH dependence of the redox potential of the mutants was measured by cyclic voltammetry. Compared to the wild-type protein, the magnitude of the redox-Bohr effect in the mutants was smaller, but not fully abolished, confirming the role of His47 on the pH modulation of OmcF’s redox potential. However, the pH effect on the heme substituents’ NMR chemical shifts suggested that the heme propionate P13 also contributes to the overall redox-Bohr effect in OmcF. In physiological terms, the contribution of two independent acid–base centers to the observed redox-Bohr effect confers OmcF a higher versatility to environmental changes by coupling electron/proton transfer within a wider pH range.

Ferreira, MR, Fernandes TM, Salgueiro CA.  2020.  Thermodynamic properties of triheme cytochrome PpcF from Geobacter metallireducens reveal unprecedented functional mechanism. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics. 1861:148271., Number 11 AbstractWebsite

The bacterium Geobacter metallireducens is highly efficient in long-range extracellular electron transfer, a process that relies on an efficient bridging between the cytoplasmic electron donors and the extracellular acceptors. The periplasmic triheme cytochromes are crucial players in these processes and thus the understanding of their functional mechanism is crucial to elucidate the extracellular electron transfer processes in this microorganism. The triheme cytochrome PpcF from G. metallireducens has the lowest amino acid sequence identity with the remaining cytochromes from the PpcA-family of G. sulfurreducens and G. metallireducens, making it an interesting target for structural and functional studies. In this work, we performed a detailed functional and thermodynamic characterization of cytochrome PpcF by the complementary usage of NMR and visible spectroscopic techniques. The results obtained show that the heme reduction potentials are negative, different from each other and are also modulated by the redox and redox-Bohr interactions that assure unprecedented mechanistic features to the protein. The results showed that the order of oxidation of the hemes in cytochrome PpcF is maintained in the entire physiological pH range. The considerable separation of the hemes' redox potential values facilitates a sequential transfer within the chain of redox centers in PpcF, thus assuring electron transfer directionality to the electron acceptors.

Teixeira, LR, Portela PC, Morgado L, Pantoja-Uceda D, Bruix M, Salgueiro CA.  2019.  Backbone assignment of cytochrome PccH, a crucial protein for microbial electrosynthesis in Geobacter sulfurreducens, 2019. Biomol NMR Assign. 13(2):321-326. AbstractWebsite

Microbial electrosynthesis is an emerging green technology that explores the capability of a particular group of microorganisms to drive their metabolism toward the production of hydrogen or value-added chemicals from electrons supplied by electrode surfaces. The cytochrome PccH showed the largest increase in transcription when electrons are supplied to Geobacter sulfurreducens biofilms. Gene knock-out experiments have shown that the electron transfer toward G. sulfurreducens cells was completely inhibited by the deletion of the gene encoding for cytochrome PccH. This identifies a crucial role for this protein in G. sulfurreducens microbial electrosynthesis mechanisms, which are currently unknown. In this work, we present the backbone (1H, 13C and 15N) and heme assignment for PccH in the oxidized state. The data obtained paves the way to identify and structurally map the molecular interaction regions between the cytochrome PccH and its physiological redox partners.

Fernandes, TM, Morgado L, Salgueiro CA, Turner DL.  2019.  Determination of the magnetic properties and orientation of the heme axial ligands of PpcA from G. metallireducens by paramagnetic NMR. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry. 198:110718. AbstractWebsite

The rising interest in the use of Geobacter bacteria for biotechnological applications demands a deep understanding of how these bacteria are able to thrive in a variety of environments and perform extracellular electron transfer. The Geobacter metallireducens bacterium can couple the oxidation of a wide range of compounds to the reduction of several extracellular acceptors, including heavy metals, toxic organic compounds or electrode surfaces. The periplasmic c-type cytochrome PpcA from this bacterium is a member of a family composed of five periplasmic triheme cytochromes, which are important to bridge the electron transfer between the cytoplasm and the extracellular environment. To better understand the functional mechanism of PpcA it is essential to obtain structural data for this cytochrome. In this work, the geometry of the heme axial ligands, as well as the magnetic properties of the hemes were determined for the oxidized form of the cytochrome, using the 13C NMR chemical shifts of the heme α-substituents. The results were further compared with those previously obtained for the homologous cytochrome from Geobacter sulfurreducens. The orientations of the axial histidine planes and the magnetic properties of the hemes are conserved in both proteins. Overall, the results obtained allowed the definition of the orientation of the magnetic axes of PpcA from G. metallireducens, which will be used as constraints to assist the solution structure determination of the cytochrome in the oxidized form.

Salgueiro, CA, Dantas JM, Morgado L.  2019.  Principles of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Selected Biological Applications. Radiation in Bioanalysis: Spectroscopic Techniques and Theoretical Methods. (Pereira, Alice S., Tavares, Pedro, Limão-Vieira, Paulo, Eds.).:245–286., Cham: Springer International Publishing Abstract

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is extremely powerful to study distinct biological systems ranging from biomolecules to specific metabolites. This chapter presents the basic concepts of the technique and illustrates its potential to study such systems. Similarly, to other spectroscopic techniques, the theoretical background of NMR is sustained by detailed mathematics and physical chemistry concepts, which were kept to the minimum. The intent is to introduce the fundamentals of the technique to science students from different backgrounds. The basic concepts of NMR spectroscopy are briefly presented in the first section, and the following sections describe applications in the biosciences field, using electron transfer proteins as model, particularly cytochromes. The heme groups endow cytochromes with particular features making them excellent examples to illustrate the high versatility of NMR spectroscopy. The main methodologies underlying protein solution structure determination are discussed in the second section. This is followed by a description of the main experiments explored to structurally map protein-protein or protein-ligand interface regions in molecular complexes. Finally, it is shown how NMR spectroscopy can assist in the functional characterization of multiheme cytochromes.