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Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry
Volume 242, 2023, 112168

The binding of nitrogen-donor ligands to the ferric and ferrous forms of cytochrome P450 enzymes

Hebatalla Mohamed, Amna Ghith, Stephen G. Bell

Department of Chemistry, University Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.


The cytochrome P450 superfamily of heme-thiolate monooxygenase enzymes can catalyse various oxidation reactions. The addition of a substrate or an inhibitor ligand induces changes in the absorption spectrum of these enzymes and UV–visible (UV–vis) absorbance spectroscopy is the most common and readily available technique used to interrogate their heme and active site environment. Nitrogen-containing ligands can inhibit the catalytic cycle of heme enzymes by interacting with the heme. Here we evaluate the binding of imidazole and pyridine-based ligands to the ferric and ferrous forms of a selection of bacterial cytochrome P450 enzymes using UV–visible absorbance spectroscopy. The majority of these ligands interact with the heme as one would expect for type II nitrogen directly coordinated to a ferric heme-thiolate species. However, the spectroscopic changes observed in the ligand-bound ferrous forms indicated differences in the heme environment across these P450 enzyme/ligand combinations. Multiple species were observed in the UV–vis spectra of the ferrous ligand-bound P450s. None of the enzymes gave rise to the isolation of a single species with a Soret band at ∼442–447 nm, indicative of a 6-coordinate ferrous thiolate species with a nitrogen-donor ligand. A ferrous species with Soret band at ∼427 nm coupled with an α-band of increased intensity was observed with the imidazole ligands. With some enzyme-ligand combinations reduction resulted in breaking of the iron‑nitrogen bond yielding a 5-coordinate high-spin ferrous species. In other instances, the ferrous form was readily oxidised back to the ferric form on addition of the ligand.

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