Phototrophic hydrogen production from a clostridial [FeFe] hydrogenase expressed in the heterocysts of the cyanobacterium Nostoc PCC 7120

Luisana Avilan, Baptiste Roumezi, Véronique Risoul, Christophe Sébastien Bernard, Arlette Kpebe, Mayssène Belhadjhassine, Marc Rousset, Myriam Brugna, Amel Latifi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The conversion of solar energy into hydrogen represents a highly attractive strategy for the production of renewable energies. Photosynthetic microorganisms have the ability to produce H2 from sunlight but several obstacles must be overcome before obtaining a sustainable and efficient H2 production system. Cyanobacteria harbor [NiFe] hydrogenases required for the consumption of H2. As a result, their H2 production rates are low, which makes them not suitable for a high yield production. On the other hand, [FeFe] enzymes originating from anaerobic organisms such as Clostridium exhibit much higher H2 production activities, but their sensitivity to O2 inhibition impairs their use in photosynthetic organisms. To reach such a goal, it is therefore important to protect the hydrogenase from O2. The diazotrophic filamentous cyanobacteria protect their nitrogenases from O2 by differentiating micro-oxic cells called heterocysts. Producing [FeFe] hydrogenase in the heterocyst is an attractive strategy to take advantage of their potential in a photosynthetic microorganism. Here, we present a biological engineering approach for producing an active [FeFe] hydrogenase (HydA) from Clostridium acetobutylicum in the heterocysts of the filamentous cyanobacterium Nostoc PCC7120. To further decrease the O2 amount inside the heterocyst, the GlbN cyanoglobin from Nostoc commune was coproduced with HydA in the heterocyst. The engineered strain produced 400 μmol-H2 per mg Chlorophyll a, which represents 20-fold the amount produced by the wild type strain. This result is a clear demonstration that it is possible to associate oxygenic photosynthesis with H2 production by an O2-sensitive hydrogenase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5775-5783
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number13
Early online date24 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Clostridium acetobutylicum/enzymology
  • Hydrogen/metabolism
  • Hydrogenase/genetics
  • Industrial Microbiology/methods
  • Nostoc/genetics
  • Organisms, Genetically Modified/genetics


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