Polarized absorption microspectrophotometry has been used to detect catalysis and intermolecular electron transfer in single crystals of two multiprotein complexes: (1) the binary complex between Paracoccus denitrificans methylamine dehydrogenase, which contains tryptophan-tryptophylquinone (TTQ) as a cofactor, and its redox partner, the blue copper protein amicyanin; (2) the ternary complex between the same two proteins and cytochrome c-551i. Continuous wave electron paramagnetic resonance has been used to compare the state of copper in polycrystalline powders of the two systems. While catalysis and intermolecular electron transfer from reduced TTQ to copper are too fast to be accessible to our measurements, heme reduction occurs over a period of several minutes. The observed rate constant is about four orders of magnitude lower than in solution. The analysis of the temperature dependence of this apparent constant provides values for the parameters H-AB, related to electronic coupling between the two centers, and lambda, the reorganizational energy, that are compatible with electron transfer being the rate-determining step. From these parameters and the known distance between copper and heme, it is possible to calculate the parameter beta, which depends on the nature of the intervening medium, obtaining a value typical of electron transfer across a protein matrix. These findings suggest that the ternary complex in solution might achieve a higher efficiency than the rigid crystal structure thanks to an as yet unidentified role of protein dynamics.
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