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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1999 Jan 11;1429(2):351-64.

X-ray absorption spectroscopy of cadmium phytochelatin and model systems.

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Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory, Stanford University, CA 94309, USA.


Higher plants, algae and some yeasts respond to potentially toxic heavy metals such as cadmium by synthesizing phytochelatins and related cysteine-rich polypeptides. We have used X-ray absorption spectroscopy to study the nature of cadmium binding in such peptides isolated from maize (Zea mays) exposed to low levels of cadmium, and in two synthetic cadmium-peptide complexes, Cd-(gamma-Glu-Cys)3Gly and Cd-(alpha-Glu-Cys)3Gly. We have used the synthetic ions [Cd(SPh)4]2-, [Cd4(SPh)10]2- and [S4Cd10(SPh)16]4-as crystallographically defined models for the cadmium site. The Cd K-edge extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) data, together with the Cd K, LI, LII and LIII near-edge spectra, reveal a predominantly tetrahedral coordination of cadmium by sulfur in both the phytochelatin and synthetic peptide complexes. In particular, the Cd LIII-edge lacks a peak at 3534.9 e V which was found to be prominent for oxygen- or nitrogen-coordinated species. The Cd-S distance in the phytochelatin complex is 2.54 A. The Cd K-edge EXAFS does not show any isolated, well-defined Cd-Cd interactions; however, contrary to the conclusion of previous work, their absence is not necessarily indicative of isolated cadmium-thiolate ligation. Evidence from other studies suggests that high static disorder, combined with a large vibrational component, serve to effectively wash out this contribution to the EXAFS. The sulfur K-edge, moreover, shows a low-energy feature both in the phytochelatin and in the synthetic cadmium-peptide complexes which is consistent with sulfide bound in a cluster with cadmium as found for [S4Cd10(SPh)16]4-. This feature strongly suggests the presence of a polynuclear cadmium cluster in maize phytochelatin.

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