Structural and mechanistic insights into the electron flow through protein for cytochrome c-tethering copper nitrite reductase

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Copper-containing nitrite reductases (CuNiRs), which catalyse the reversible one-electron reduction of nitrite to nitric oxide, are members of a large family of multi-copper enzymes that require an interprotein electron transfer (ET) reaction with redox partner proteins. Here, we show that the naturally fused type of CuNiR tethering a cytochrome c (Cyt c) at the C-terminus folds as a unique trimeric domain-swapped structure and has a self-sufficient electron flow system. The C-terminal Cyt c domain is located at the surface of the type 1 copper (T1Cu) site in the N-terminal CuNiR domain from the adjacent subunit, the heme-to-Cu distance (10.6 Å) of which is comparable to the transient ET complex of normal CuNiR with Cyt c. The structural aspects for the domain–domain interface and the ET kinetics indicate that the Cyt c–CuNiR domain interaction should be highly transient. The further electrochemical analysis of the interprotein ET reaction with a cognate redox partner protein suggested that an electron is directly transferred from the partner to the T1Cu. Structural and mechanistic comparisons of Cyt c–CuNiR with another cupredoxin-tethering CuNiR highlight the behaviours of extra domains on the fusion types of CuNiRs required for ET through proteins.

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