HEME ENZYMES: Neutron cryo-crystallography captures the protonation state of ferryl heme in a peroxidase

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Abstract

Heme enzymes activate oxygen through formation of transient iron-oxo (ferryl) intermediates of the heme iron. A long-standing question has been the nature of the iron-oxygen bond and, in particular, the protonation state. We present neutron structures of the ferric derivative of cytochrome c peroxidase and its ferryl intermediate; these allow direct visualization of protonation states. We demonstrate that the ferryl heme is an Fe(IV)=O species and is not protonated. Comparison of the structures shows that the distal histidine becomes protonated on formation of the ferryl intermediate, which has implications for the understanding of O-O bond cleavage in heme enzymes. The structures highlight the advantages of neutron cryo-crystallography in probing reaction mechanisms and visualizing protonation states in enzyme intermediates.

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