Human heme oxygenases 1 and 2 (HO-1 and HO-2) degrade heme in the presence of oxygen and NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase, producing ferrous iron, CO, and biliverdin. HO-1 is an inducible enzyme, but HO-2 is constitutively expressed in selected tissues and is involved in signaling and regulatory processes. HO-2 has three cysteine residues that have been proposed to modulate the affinity for heme, whereas HO-1 has none. Here we use site-specific mutagenesis and two-dimensional NMR of l-[3-(13)C]cysteine-labeled proteins to determine the redox state of the individual cysteines in HO-2 and assess their roles in binding of heme. The results indicate that in the apoprotein, Cys(282) and Cys(265) are in the oxidized state, probably in an intramolecular disulfide bond. The addition of a reducing agent converts them to the reduced, free thiol state. Two-dimensional NMR of site-specific mutants reveals that the redox state of Cys(265) and Cys(282) varies with the presence or absence of other Cys residues, indicating that the microenvironments of the Cys residues are mutually interdependent. Cys(265) appears to be in a relatively hydrophilic, oxidizable environment compared with Cys(127) and Cys(282). Chemical shift data indicate that none of the cysteines stably coordinates to the heme iron atom. In the oxidized state of the apoprotein, heme is bound 2.5-fold more tightly than in the reduced state. This small difference in heme affinity between the oxidized and reduced states of the protein is much less than previously reported, suggesting that it is not a significant factor in the physiological regulation of cellular heme levels.
J Biol Chem. 2012 Oct 12;287(42):35181-91. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.378042. Epub 2012 Aug 24.