Copper binding by a unique family of metalloproteins is dependent on kynurenine formation

Anastasia C. Manesis, Richard J. Jodts, Brian M. Hoffman, Amy C. Rosenzweig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some methane-oxidizing bacteria use the ribosomally synthesized, posttranslationally modified natural product methanobactin (Mbn) to acquire copper for their primary metabolic enzyme, particulate methane monooxygenase. The operons encoding the machinery to biosynthesize and transport Mbns typically include genes for two proteins, MbnH and MbnP, which are also found as a pair in other genomic contexts related to copper homeostasis. While the MbnH protein, a member of the bacterial diheme cytochrome c peroxidase (bCcP)/MauG superfamily, has been characterized, the structure and function of MbnP, the relationship between the two proteins, and their role in copper homeostasis remain unclear. Biochemical characterization of MbnP from the methanotroph Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b now reveals that MbnP binds a single copper ion, present in the +1 oxidation state, with high affinity. Copper binding to MbnP in vivo is dependent on oxidation of the first tryptophan in a conserved WxW motif to a kynurenine, a transformation that occurs through an interaction of MbnH with MbnP. The 2.04-Å-resolution crystal structure of MbnP reveals a unique fold and an unusual copper-binding site involving a histidine, a methionine, a solvent ligand, and the kynurenine. Although the kynurenine residue may not serve as a CuI primary-sphere ligand, being positioned ∼2.9 Å away from the CuI ion, its presence is required for copper binding. Genomic neighborhood analysis indicates that MbnP proteins, and by extension kynurenine-containing copper sites, are widespread and may play diverse roles in microbial copper homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2100680118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 8 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Copper
  • Diheme peroxidase
  • Kynurenine
  • MbnP
  • Methanotroph

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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