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Histidine–Lysine Axial Ligand Switching in a Hemoglobin: A Role for Heme Propionates

Nye, Dillon B., Preimesberger, Matthew R., Majumdar, Ananya, Lecomte, Juliette T. J.
Biochemistry 2018 v.57 no.5 pp. 631-644
Synechococcus, absorption, cytochrome c, electrostatic interactions, heme, heme iron, hemoglobin, histidine, ligands, mutagenesis, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, oxygen, pH
The hemoglobin of Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002, GlbN, is a monomeric group I truncated protein (TrHb1) that coordinates the heme iron with two histidine ligands at neutral pH. One of these is the distal histidine (His46), a residue that can be displaced by dioxygen and other small molecules. Here, we show with mutagenesis, electronic absorption spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy that at high pH and exclusively in the ferrous state, Lys42 competes with His46 for the iron coordination site. When b heme is originally present, the population of the lysine-bound species remains too small for detailed characterization; however, the population can be increased significantly by using dimethyl-esterified heme. Electronic absorption and NMR spectroscopies showed that the reversible ligand switching process occurs with an apparent pKₐ of 9.3 and a Lys-ligated population of ∼60% at the basic pH limit in the modified holoprotein. The switching rate, which is slow on the chemical shift time scale, was estimated to be 20–30 s–¹ by NMR exchange spectroscopy. Lys42–His46 competition and attendant conformational rearrangement appeared to be related to weakened bis-histidine ligation and enhanced backbone dynamics in the ferrous protein. The pH- and redox-dependent ligand exchange process observed in GlbN illustrates the structural plasticity allowed by the TrHb1 fold and demonstrates the importance of electrostatic interactions at the heme periphery for achieving axial ligand selection. An analogy is drawn to the alkaline transition of cytochrome c, in which Lys–Met competition is detected at alkaline pH, but, in contrast to GlbN, in the ferric state only.