U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



Published in Biochemistry 2006, 45, 561-570.


Hexacoordinate hemoglobins are found in many living organisms ranging from prokaryotes to plants and animals. They are named “hexacoordinate” because of reversible coordination of the heme iron by a histidine side chain located in the heme pocket. This endogenous coordination competes with exogenous ligand binding and causes multiphasic relaxation time courses following rapid mixing or flash photolysis experiments. Previous rapid mixing studies have assumed a steady-state relationship between hexacoordination and exogenous ligand binding that does not correlate with observed time courses for binding. Here, we demonstrate that this assumption is not valid for some hexacoordinate hemoglobins, and that multiphasic time courses are due to an appreciable fraction of pentacoordinate heme resulting from relatively small equilibrium constants for hexacoordination (KH). CO binding reactions initiated by rapid mixing are measured for four plant hexacoordinate hemoglobins, human neuroglobin and cytoglobin, and Synechocystis hemoglobin. The plant proteins, while showing a surprising degree of variability, differ from the others in having much lower values of KH. Neuroglobin and cytoglobin display dramatic biphasic time courses for CO binding that have not been observed using other techniques. Finally, an independent spectroscopic quantification of KH is presented that complements rapid mixing for the investigation of hexacoordination. These results demonstrate that hexacoordination could play a much larger role in regulating affinity constants for ligand binding in human neuroglobin and cytoglobin than in the plant hexacoordinate hemoglobins.