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J Biol Chem. 1989 May 15;264(14):8026-32.

Location of heme axial ligands in the cytochrome d terminal oxidase complex of Escherichia coli determined by site-directed mutagenesis.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801.


The cytochrome d terminal oxidase complex is one of two terminal oxidases which are components of the aerobic respiratory chain of Escherichia coli. This membrane-bound enzyme catalyzes the two-electron oxidation of ubiquinol and the four-electron reduction of oxygen to water. Enzyme turnover generates proton and voltage gradients across the bilayer. The oxidase is a heterodimer containing 2 mol of protoheme IX and 1 or 2 mol of heme d per mol of complex. To explain the functional properties of the enzyme, a simple model has been proposed in which it is speculated that the heme prosthetic groups define two separate active sites on opposite sides of the membrane at which the oxidation of quinol and the reduction of water, respectively, are catalyzed. This paper represents an initial effort to define the axial ligands of each of the three or four hemes within the amino acid sequence of the oxidase subunits. Each of the 10 histidine residues has been altered by site-directed mutagenesis with the expectation that histidine residues are likely candidates for heme ligands. Eight of the 10 histidine residues are not essential for enzyme activity, and 2 appear to function as heme axial ligands. Histidine 186 in subunit I is required for the cytochrome b558 component of the enzyme. This residue is likely to be located near the periplasmic surface of the membrane. Histidine 19, near the amino terminus of subunit I also appears to be a heme ligand. It is concluded that two of the four or five expected heme axial ligands have been tentatively identified, although further work is required to confirm these conclusions. A minimum of two additional axial ligands must be residues other than histidine.

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