The sulfate-reducing bacteria of the Desulfovibrio genus make three distinct modified tetrapyrroles, haem, sirohaem and adenosylcobamide, where sirohydrochlorin acts as the last common biosynthetic intermediate along the branched tetrapyrrole pathway. Intriguingly, D. vulgaris encodes two sirohydrochlorin chelatases, CbiKP and CbiKC , that insert cobalt/iron into the tetrapyrrole macrocycle but are thought to be distinctly located in the periplasm and cytoplasm respectively. Fusing GFP onto the C-terminus of CbiKP confirmed that the protein is transported to the periplasm. The structure-function relationship of CbiKP was studied by constructing eleven site-directed mutants and determining their chelatase activities, oligomeric status and haem binding abilities. Residues His154 and His216 were identified as essential for metal-chelation of sirohydrochlorin. The tetrameric form of the protein is stabilized by Arg54 and Glu76, which form hydrogen bonds between two subunits. His96 is responsible for the binding of two haem groups within the main central cavity of the tetramer. Unexpectedly, CbiKP is shown to bind two additional haem groups through interaction with His103. Thus, although still retaining cobaltochelatase activity, the presence of His96 and His103 in CbiKP , which are absent from all other known bacterial cobaltochelatases, has evolved CbiKP a new function as a haem binding protein permitting it to act as a potential haem chaperone or transporter.
© 2016 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.