Mitochondrial cytochrome c assembly requires the covalent attachment of heme by thioether bonds between heme vinyl groups and a conserved CXXCH motif of cytochrome c/c1. The enzyme holocytochrome c synthase (HCCS) binds heme and apocytochrome c substrate to catalyze this attachment, subsequently releasing holocytochrome c for proper folding to its native structure. We address mechanisms of assembly using a functional Escherichia coli recombinant system expressing human HCCS. Human cytochrome c variants with individual cysteine, histidine, double cysteine, and triple cysteine/histidine substitutions (of CXXCH) were co-purified with HCCS. Single and double mutants form a complex with HCCS but not the triple mutant. Resonance Raman and UV-visible spectroscopy support the proposal that heme puckering induced by both thioether bonds facilitate release of holocytochrome c from the complex. His-19 (of CXXCH) supplies the second axial ligand to heme in the complex, the first axial ligand was previously shown to be from HCCS residue His-154. Substitutions of His-19 in cytochrome c to seven other residues (Gly, Ala, Met, Arg, Lys, Cys, and Tyr) were used with various approaches to establish other roles played by His-19. Three roles for His-19 in HCCS-mediated assembly are suggested: (i) to provide the second axial ligand to the heme iron in preparation for covalent attachment; (ii) to spatially position the two cysteinyl sulfurs adjacent to the two heme vinyl groups for thioether formation; and (iii) to aid in release of the holocytochrome c from the HCCS active site. Only H19M is able to carry out these three roles, albeit at lower efficiencies than the natural His-19.
Keywords: Cytochrome c; Heme; Histidine; Mitochondria; Raman Spectroscopy.
© 2014 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.