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

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.

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