Prochlorococcus phage ferredoxin: Structural characterization and electron transfer to cyanobacterial sulfite reductases

Ian J. Campbell, Jose Luis Olmos, Weijun Xu, Dimithree Kahanda, Joshua T. Atkinson, Othneil Noble Sparks, Mitchell D. Miller, George N. Phillips, George N. Bennett, Jonathan J. Silberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Marine cyanobacteria are infected by phages whose genomes encode ferredoxin (Fd) electron carriers. These Fds are thought to redirect the energy harvested from light to phage-encoded oxidoreductases that enhance viral fitness, but it is unclear how the biophysical properties and partner specificities of phage Fds relate to those of photosynthetic organisms. Here, results of a bioinformatics analysis using a sequence similarity network revealed that phage Fds are most closely related to cyanobacterial Fds that transfer electrons from photosystems to oxidoreductases involved in nutrient assimilation. Structural analysis of myovirus P-SSM2 Fd (pssm2-Fd), which infects the cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus marinus, revealed high levels of similarity to cyanobacterial Fds (root mean square deviations of £ 0.5 Å). Additionally, pssm2-Fd exhibited a low midpoint reduction potential (-336 mV versus a standard hydrogen electrode), similar to other photosynthetic Fds, although it had lower thermostability (Tm = 28 °C) than did many other Fds. When expressed in an Escherichia coli strain deficient in sulfite assimilation, pssm2-Fd complemented bacterial growth when coexpressed with a P. marinus sulfite reductase, revealing that pssm2-Fd can transfer electrons to a host protein involved in nutrient assimilation. The high levels of structural similarity with cyanobacterial Fds and reactivity with a host sulfite reductase suggest that phage Fds evolved to transfer electrons to cyanobacterially encoded oxidoreductases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10610-10623
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number31
StatePublished - Jul 31 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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