We report the first direct electrochemical characterization of the impact of oxygen on the hydrogen oxidation activity of an oxygen-tolerant, group 3, soluble [NiFe]-hydrogenase: hydrogenase I from Pyrococcus furiosus (PfSHI), which grows optimally near 100 °C. Chronoamperometric experiments were used to probe the sensitivity of PfSHI hydrogen oxidation activity to both brief and prolonged exposure to oxygen. For experiments between 15 and 80 °C, following short (<200 s) exposure to 14 μM O2 under oxidizing conditions, PfSHI always maintains some fraction of its initial hydrogen oxidation activity; i.e., it is oxygen-tolerant. Reactivation experiments show that two inactive states are formed by interaction with oxygen and both can be quickly (<150 s) reactivated. Analogous experiments, in which the interval of oxygen exposure is extended to 900 s, reveal that the response is highly temperature-dependent. At 25 °C, under sustained 1% O2/ 99% H2 exposure, the H2oxidation activity drops nearly to zero. However, at 80 °C, up to 32% of the enzyme's oxidation activity is retained. Reactivation of PfSHI following sustained exposure to oxygen occurs on a much longer time scale (tens of minutes), suggesting that a third inactive species predominates under these conditions. These results stand in contrast to the properties of oxygen-tolerant, group 1 [NiFe]-hydrogenases, which form a single state upon reaction with oxygen, and we propose that this new type of hydrogenase should be referred to as oxygen-resilient. Furthermore, PfSHI, like other group 3 [NiFe]-hydrogenases, does not possess the proximal [4Fe3S] cluster associated with the oxygen tolerance of some group 1 enzymes. Thus, a new mechanism is necessary to explain the observed oxygen tolerance in soluble, group 3 [NiFe]-hydrogenases, and we present a model integrating both electrochemical and spectroscopic results to define the relationships of these inactive states.
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