Cell-free extracts of the homoacetate-fermenting bacterium Clostridium thermoaceticum were shown to catalyze the hydrogen-dependent reduction of various artificial electron acceptors. The activity of the hydrogenase was optimal at pH 8.5 to 9 and was extremely sensitive to aeration. EDTA did not significantly reduce the liability of the enzymic activity to oxidation (aeration). At 50 degrees C, when both methyl viologen and hydrogen were at saturating concentrations with respect to hydrogenase, the specific activity of cell-free extracts approximated 4 mumol of H2 oxidized per min per mg of protein; fourfold higher specific activities were obtained when benzyl viologen was utilized as an electron acceptor. Activity stains of polyacrylamide gels demonstrated the presence of a single hydrogenase band, suggesting that the catalytic activity in cell extracts was due to a single enzyme. The activity was stable for at least 32 min at 55 degrees C but was slowly inactivated at 70 degrees C. NAD, NADP, flavin adenine dinucleotide, flavin mononucleotide, and ferredoxin were not significantly reduced, but possible reduction of the particulate b-type cytochrome of C. thermoaceticum was observed. NaCl, sodium dodecyl sulfate, iodoacetamide, and CO were shown to inhibit catalysis. A kinetic study is presented, and the possible physiologic roles for hydrogenase in C. thermoaceticum ar discussed
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