Kinetics of copper incorporation into a biosynthetic purple Cu A azurin: Characterization of red, blue, and a new intermediate species

Tiffany D. Wilson, Masha G. Savelieff, Mark J. Nilges, Nicholas M. Marshall, Yi Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evolutionary links between type 1 blue copper (T1 Cu), type 2 red copper (T2 Cu), and purple Cu A cupredoxins have been proposed, but the structural features and mechanism responsible for such links as well as for assembly of Cu A sites in vivo are poorly understood, even though recent evidence demonstrated that the Cu(II) oxidation state plays an important role in this process. In this study, we examined the kinetics of Cu(II) incorporation into the Cu A site of a biosynthetic Cu A model, Cu A azurin (Cu AAz) and found that both T1 Cu and T2 Cu intermediates form on the path to final Cu A reconstitution in a pH-dependent manner, with slower kinetics and greater accumulation of the intermediates as the pH is raised from 5.0 to 7.0. While these results are similar to those observed previously in the native Cu A center of nitrous oxide reductase, the faster kinetics of copper incorporation into Cu AAz allowed us to use lower copper equivalents to reveal a new pathway of copper incorporation, including a novel intermediate that has not been reported in cupredoxins before, with intense electronic absorption maxima at ∼410 and 760 nm. We discovered that this new intermediate underwent reduction to Cu(I), and proposed that it is a Cu(II)-dithiolate species. Oxygen-dependence studies demonstrated that the T1 Cu species only formed in the presence of molecular oxygen, suggesting the T1 Cu intermediate is a one-electron oxidation product of a Cu(I) species. By studying Cu AAz variants where the Cys and His ligands are mutated, we have identified the T2 Cu intermediate as a capture complex with Cys116 and the T1 Cu intermediate as a complex with Cys112 and His120. These results led to a unified mechanism of copper incorporation and new insights regarding the evolutionary link between all cupredoxin sites as well as the in vivo assembly of Cu A centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20778-20792
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 28 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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