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Eur J Biochem. 1996 Dec 15;242(3):779-87.

Purification and spectroscopic characterization of a recombinant chloroplastic hemoglobin from the green unicellular alga Chlamydomonas eugametos.

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Department of Biochemistry, Laval University, Quebec, Canada.


Hemoglobins (Hb), which have the important task of delivering molecular oxygen by facilitating its reversible binding to the heme, are now thought to have evolved in all groups of organisms including prokaryotes, fungi, plants and animals. Our recent finding of a light-inducible chloroplastic Hb in the green unicellular alga Chlamydomonas eugametos has further extend this idea, while raising questions about the function that an Hb could play in a high oxygen environment such as in the chloroplast. In order to understand the role played by this new Hb, we have undertaken its biochemical characterization. To facilitate the characterization of Chlamydomonas Hb, which represents less than 0.01% of the soluble protein in the green alga, the protein has been expressed in Escherichia coli and purified to apparent homogeneity. The purified recombinant protein possesses a non-covalently bound iron-protoporphyrin IX heme. The oxy form of the recombinant Hb. purified directly from bacterial cells, is very stable, with a measured half-life of 7 days at pH 8 and has an ultraviolet/visible spectrum similar to those of the related cytoplasmic Hbs of the ciliated protozoa Paramecium and Tetrahymena and of the cyanobacterium Nostoc commune. In contrast to what has been reported for oxymyoglobins and oxyhemoglobins, the dioxygen molecule bound to the L1637 Hb can be reduced by the electron-transfer mediator phenazine methosulfate in the presence of NADPH, indicating that the heme pocket of Chlamydomonas Hb may be more accessible to small molecules. With regard to this we found that when the small reducing agent sodium dithionite is used to reduce the met form, it must be removed anaerobically from the Hb prior to oxygenation of the protein to stably produce the oxy form. Otherwise, the oxy form is obtained readily from the met form under an oxygenic atmosphere when ferredoxin and ferredoxin NADP+ reductase are used to enzymically reduce the Hb. Finally, the spectra of the deoxy and met forms were unusual, the heme being partly low-spin at physiological pH. These results confirm the existence of a reversible oxygen-binding protein in the chloroplast of C. eugametos. The unusual spectral and biochemical properties of the protein may reflect a specialized function for this Hb.

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