Non-autotrophic (Aut -) mutants of Rhodopseudomonas capsulata B10 were tested for their efficiency of nitrogenase-mediated H2 production. Three of these mutants (IR3, IR4 and IR5) showed an increase stoichiometry of H2 production, mediated by nitrogenase, from certain organic substrates. For example, in a medium containing 7 mM-L-glutamate as nitrogen source, strain IR4 produced 10-20% more H2 than did the wild type with DL-lactate or L-malate as major carbon source, 20-50% more H2 with DL-malate, and up to 70% more with D-malate. Strain IR4 was deficient in ‘uptake’ hydrogenase activity as measured by H2-dependent reduction of Methylene Blue or Benzyl Viologen. However, this observation did not explain the increased efficiency of H2 production, since H2 uptake (H2 recycling) was undetectable in cells of the wild type. Instead, increased H2 production by the mutant appeared to be due to an improved conversion of organic substrates to H2 and CO2, presumably due to an altered carbon metabolism. The metabolism of D-malate by different strains was studied. An NAD+-dependent D-malic enzyme was synthesized constitutively by the wild type, and showed a Km for D-malate of 3 mM. The activity of this enzyme was approx. 50% higher in strain IR4 than in the wild type, and the mutant also grew twice as fast as the wild type with D-malate as sole carbon source.

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