Structural and functional properties of ferrous Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mt-Nb) and human (Hs-Nb) nitrobindins (Nbs) were investigated. At pH 7.0 and 25.0◦C, the unliganded Fe(II) species is penta-coordinated and unlike most other hemoproteins no pH-dependence of its coordination was detected over the pH range between 2.2 and 7.0. Further, despite a very open distal side of the heme pocket (as also indicated by the vanishingly small geminate recombination of CO for both Nbs), which exposes the heme pocket to the bulk solvent, their reactivity toward ligands, such as CO and NO, is significantly slower than in most hemoproteins, envisaging either a proximal barrier for ligand binding and/or crowding of H2O molecules in the distal side of the heme pocket which impairs ligand binding to the heme Fe-atom. On the other hand, liganded species display already at pH 7.0 and 25◦C a severe weakening (in the case of CO) and a cleavage (in the case of NO) of the proximal Fe-His bond, suggesting that the ligand-linked movement of the Fe(II) atom onto the heme plane brings about a marked lengthening of the proximal Fe-imidazole bond, eventually leading to its rupture. This structural evidence is accompanied by a marked enhancement of both ligands dissociation rate constants. As a whole, these data clearly indicate that structural– functional relationships in Nbs strongly differ from what observed in mammalian and truncated hemoproteins, suggesting that Nbs play a functional role clearly distinct from other eukaryotic and prokaryotic hemoproteins.
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