Oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate to form acetyl-coenzyme A, a crucial step in many metabolic pathways, is carried out in most aerobic organisms by the multienzyme complex pyruvate dehydrogenase. In most anaerobes, the same reaction is usually catalyzed by a single enzyme, pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase (PFOR). Thus, PFOR is a potential target for drug design against certain anaerobic pathogens. Here, we report the crystal structures of the homodimeric Desulfovibrio africanus PFOR (data to 2.3 A resolution), and of its complex with pyruvate (3.0 A resolution). The structures show that each subunit consists of seven domains, one of which affords protection against oxygen. The thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP) cofactor and the three [4Fe-4S] clusters are suitably arranged to provide a plausible electron transfer pathway. In addition, the PFOR-pyruvate complex structure shows the noncovalent fixation of the substrate before the catalytic reaction.
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