Cytochrome o of Escherichia coli is able to incorporate two different structures of heme, either heme B (protoheme) or heme O, in its low-spin heme site. In contrast, the heme of the binuclear O2reduction site is invariably heme O. Heme O is a newly discovered heme that is related to heme A, but with the formyl group of the latter replaced by methyl. Enzyme isolated from wild type E. coli has predominantly heme B in the low-spin site, whereas enzyme isolated from various overexpressing strains contains both types of enzyme in different proportions. In some strains, 70% of the enzyme has heme O in the low-spin site. Despite this variation in the structure of one of the prosthetic groups, the enzymatic activity and polypeptide composition of the enzyme remain virtually constant. EPR and activity data both indicate that heme B and heme O occupy the same low-spin heme site in the enzyme. With heme O in this site, the a-absorption band is narrower and further to the blue, and the Em, 7 is lower, than when there is heme B in the site. In contrast to previous proposals, we show here that the enzyme does not exhibit significant spectral interactions between the hemes. The structural heterogeneity of the low-spin heme accounts for the variation in the optical spectra and redox properties of the enzyme as isolated from different strains of E. coli.
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