The crystal structure of ferredoxin from the thermoacidophilic archaeon Sulfolobus sp. strain 7 was determined by multiple isomorphous replacement supplemented with anomalous scattering effects of iron atoms in the Fe-S clusters, and refined at 2.0 Å resolution to a crystallographic R value of 0.173. The structural model contains a polypeptide chain of 103 amino acid residues, 2 [3Fe-4S] clusters, and 31 water molecules; in this model, the cluster corresponding to cluster II in bacterial dicluster ferredoxins loses the fourth iron atom although it may originally be a [4Fe-4S] cluster. The structure of the archaeal ferredoxin consists of two parts: the core fold part (residues 37-103) and the N-terminal extension part (residues 1-36). The 'core fold' part has an overall main-chain folding common to bacterial dicluster ferredoxins, containing two clusters as the active center, two α- helices near the clusters, and two sheets of two-stranded antiparallel β- sheet (the terminal and central β-sheets). The 'N-terminal extension' part is mainly formed by a one-turn α-helix and a three-stranded antiparallel β- sheet. The β-sheet in the N-terminal extension is hydrogen-bonded with the terminal β-sheet in the core fold to form a larger β-sheet. The distinct structural feature of this archaeal ferredoxin lies in the zinc-binding center where the zinc ion is tetrahedrally ligated by four amino acid residues (His 16, His 19, and His 34 from the N-terminal extension, and Asp 76 from the core fold). The zinc ion in the zinc-binding center is located at the interface between the core fold and the N-terminal extension, and connects the β-sheet in the N-terminal extension and the central β-sheet in the core fold through the zinc ligation. Thus, the zinc ion plays an important role in stabilizing the structure of the present archaeal ferredoxin by connecting the N-terminal extension and the core fold, which may be common to thermoacidophilic archaeal ferredoxins.
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