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J Biol Chem. 1998 Aug 28;273(35):22311-6.

Evidence that the fourth ligand to the [2Fe-2S] cluster in animal ferrochelatase is a cysteine. Characterization of the enzyme from Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, and the Center for Metalloenzyme Studies, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.


In a previous study, site-directed mutagenesis experiments identified three of the four ligands to the [2Fe-2S] cluster in animal ferrochelatase as conserved cysteines in the COOH-terminal extension, Cys-403, Cys-406, and Cys-411 in human ferrochelatase (Crouse, B. R., Sellers, V. M., Finnegan, M. G., Dailey, H. A. & Johnson, M. K. (1996) Biochemistry 35, 16222-16229). The nature of the fourth ligand was left unresolved, and spectroscopic studies raised the possibility of one noncysteinyl, oxygenic ligand. In this work, we report two lines of evidence that strongly suggest the fourth ligand is a cysteine residue. Cysteine at position 196 in human recombinant ferrochelatase when changed to a serine results in an inactive enzyme that is lacking the [2Fe-2S] cluster. Furthermore, whole cell EPR studies demonstrate that in the C196S mutant the cluster fails to assemble. Additionally, the cloning and expression of Drosophila melanogaster ferrochelatase has allowed the identification, by EPR and UV-visible spectroscopy, of a [2Fe-2S]2+ cluster with properties analogous to those of animal ferrochelatases. The observation that Drosophila ferrochelatase contains only four conserved cysteines at positions 196, 403, 406, and 411, is in accord with the proposal that these residues function as cluster ligands. In the case of the ferrochelatase iron-sulfur cluster ligands, NH2-Cys-X206-Cys-X2-Cys-X4-Cys-COOH, the position distant from other ligands may lead to a spatial positioning of the cluster near the enzyme active site or at the interface of two domains, thereby explaining the loss of enzyme activity that accompanies cluster degradation and reinforcing the idea that the cluster functions as a regulatory switch.

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