Although electrostatic interactions between negatively charged ferredoxin (Fd) and positively charged sulfite reductase (SiR) have been predominantly highlighted to characterize complex formation, the detailed nature of intermolecular forces remains to be fully elucidated. We investigated interprotein forces for the formation of an electron transfer complex between Fd and SiR and their relationship to SiR activity using various approaches over NaCl concentrations between 0 and 400 mM. Fd-dependent SiR activity assays revealed a bell-shaped activity curve with a maximum ∼40–70 mM NaCl and a reverse bell-shaped dependence of interprotein affinity. Meanwhile, intrinsic SiR activity, as measured in a methyl viologen-dependent assay, exhibited saturation above 100 mM NaCl. Thus, two assays suggested that interprotein interaction is crucial in controlling Fd-dependent SiR activity. Calorimetric analyses showed the monotonic decrease in interprotein affinity on increasing NaCl concentrations, distinguished from a reverse bell-shaped interprotein affinity observed from Fd-dependent SiR activity assay. Furthermore, Fd:SiR complex formation and interprotein affinity were thermodynamically adjusted by both enthalpy and entropy through electrostatic and non-electrostatic interactions. A residue-based NMR investigation on the addition of SiR to 15N-labeled Fd at the various NaCl concentrations also demonstrated that a combination of electrostatic and non-electrostatic forces stabilized the complex with similar interfaces and modulated the binding affinity and mode. Our findings elucidate that non-electrostatic forces are also essential for the formation and modulation of the Fd:SiR complex. We suggest that a complex configuration optimized for maximum enzymatic activity near physiological salt conditions is achieved by structural rearrangement through controlled non-covalent interprotein interactions.

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