Structure of a Zinc Porphyrin-Substituted Bacterioferritin and Photophysical Properties of Iron Reduction

Brenda S. Benavides, Silvano Valandro, Daniela Cioloboc, Alexander B. Taylor, Kirk S. Schanze, Donald M. Kurtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The iron storage protein bacterioferritin (Bfr) binds up to 12 hemes b at specific sites in its protein shell. The heme b can be substituted with the photosensitizer Zn(II)-protoporphyrin IX (ZnPP), and photosensitized reductive iron release from the ferric oxyhydroxide {[FeO(OH)]n} core inside the ZnPP-Bfr protein shell was demonstrated [Cioloboc, D., et al. (2018) Biomacromolecules19, 178-187]. This report describes the X-ray crystal structure of ZnPP-Bfr and the effects of loaded iron on the photophysical properties of the ZnPP. The crystal structure of ZnPP-Bfr shows a unique six-coordinate zinc in the ZnPP with two axial methionine sulfur ligands. Steady state and transient ultraviolet-visible absorption and luminescence spectroscopies show that irradiation with light overlapping the Soret absorption causes oxidation of ZnPP to the cation radical ZnPP•+ only when the ZnPP-Bfr is loaded with [FeO(OH)]n. Femtosecond transient absorption spectroscopy shows that this photooxidation occurs from the singlet excited state (1ZnPP*) on the picosecond time scale and is consistent with two oxidizing populations of Fe3+, which do not appear to involve the ferroxidase center iron. We propose that [FeO(OH)]n clusters at or near the inner surface of the protein shell are responsible for ZnPP photooxidation. Hopping of the photoinjected electrons through the [FeO(OH)]n would effectively cause migration of Fe2+ through the inner cavity to pores where it exits the protein. Reductive iron mobilization is presumed to be a physiological function of Bfrs. The phototriggered Fe3+ reduction could be used to identify the sites of iron mobilization within the Bfr protein shell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1618-1629
Number of pages12
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 28 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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