Cryo-EM of CcsBA reveals the basis for cytochrome c biogenesis and heme transport

Nat Chem Biol. 2022 Jan;18(1):101-108. doi: 10.1038/s41589-021-00935-y. Epub 2021 Dec 20.


Although the individual structures and respiratory functions of cytochromes are well studied, the structural basis for their assembly, including transport of heme for attachment, are unknown. We describe cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structures of CcsBA, a bifunctional heme transporter and cytochrome c (cyt c) synthase. Models built from the cryo-EM densities show that CcsBA is trapped with heme in two conformations, herein termed the closed and open states. The closed state has heme located solely at a transmembrane (TM) site, with a large periplasmic domain oriented such that access of heme to the cytochrome acceptor is denied. The open conformation contains two heme moieties, one in the TM-heme site and another in an external site (P-heme site). The presence of heme in the periplasmic site at the base of a chamber induces a large conformational shift that exposes the heme for reaction with apocytochrome c (apocyt c). Consistent with these structures, in vivo and in vitro cyt c synthase studies suggest a mechanism for transfer of the periplasmic heme to cytochrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cryoelectron Microscopy / methods*
  • Cytochromes c / biosynthesis*
  • Heme / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport


  • Heme
  • Cytochromes c