Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Bacteriology


Department of Biological Sciences

Additional Department

Thayer School of Engineering


NfnAB catalyzes the reversible transfer of electrons from reduced ferredoxin and NADH to 2 NADP+. The NfnAB complex has been hypothesized to be the main enzyme for ferredoxin oxidization in strains of Thermoanaerobacterium saccharolyticum engineered for increased ethanol production. NfnAB complex activity was detectable in crude cell extracts of T. saccharolyticum. Activity was also detected using activity staining of native PAGE gels. The nfnAB gene was deleted in different strains of T. saccharolyticum to determine its effect on end product formation. In wild-type T. saccharolyticum, deletion of nfnAB resulted in a 46% increase in H2 formation but otherwise little change in other fermentation products. In two engineered strains with 80% theoretical ethanol yield, loss of nfnAB caused two different responses: in one strain, ethanol yield decreased to about 30% of the theoretical value, while another strain had no change in ethanol yield. Biochemical analysis of cell extracts showed that the ΔnfnAB strain with decreased ethanol yield had NADPH-linked alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) activity, while the ΔnfnAB strain with unchanged ethanol yield had NADH-linked ADH activity. Deletion of nfnAB caused loss of NADPH-linked ferredoxin oxidoreductase activity in all cell extracts. Significant NADH-linked ferredoxin oxidoreductase activity was seen in all cell extracts, including those that had lost nfnAB. This suggests that there is an unidentified NADH:ferredoxin oxidoreductase (distinct from nfnAB) playing a role in ethanol formation. The NfnAB complex plays a key role in generating NADPH in a strain that had become reliant on NADPH-ADH activity.