The FEBS journal

Reduction of ferredoxin or oxygen by flavin-based electron bifurcation in Megasphaera elsdenii.

PMID 25903584


Over 50 years ago, it was reported that, in the anaerobic rumen bacterium Megasphaera elsdenii, the reduction of crotonyl-CoA to butyryl-CoA by NADH involved an electron transferring flavoprotein (Etf) as mediator [Baldwin RL, Milligan LP (1964) Biochim Biophys Acta 92, 421-432]. Purification and spectroscopic characterization revealed that this Etf contained 2 FAD, whereas, in the Etfs from aerobic and facultative bacteria, one FAD is replaced by AMP. Recently we detected a similar system in the related anaerobe Acidaminococcus fermentans that differed in the requirement of additional ferredoxin as electron acceptor. The whole process was established as flavin-based electron bifurcation in which the exergonic reduction of crotonyl-CoA by NADH mediated by Etf + butyryl-CoA dehydrogenase (Bcd) was coupled to the endergonic reduction of ferredoxin also by NADH. In the present study, we demonstrate that, under anaerobic conditions, Etf + Bcd from M. elsdenii bifurcate as efficiently as Etf + Bcd from A. fermentans. Under the aerobic conditions used in the study by Baldwin and Milligan and in the presence of catalytic amounts of crotonyl-CoA or butyryl-CoA, however, Etf + Bcd act as NADH oxidase producing superoxide and H2 O2 , whereas ferredoxin is not required. We hypothesize that, during bifurcation, oxygen replaces ferredoxin to yield superoxide. In addition, the formed butyryl-CoA is re-oxidized by a second oxygen molecule to crotonyl-CoA, resulting in a stoichiometry of 2 NADH consumed and 2 H2 O2 formed. As a result of the production of reactive oxygen species, electron bifurcation can be regarded as an Achilles' heel of anaerobes when exposed to air.