Mechanistic complexities of sulfite oxidase: An enzyme with multiple domains, subunits, and cofactors

J Inorg Biochem. 2023 Oct:247:112312. doi: 10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2023.112312. Epub 2023 Jul 4.


Sulfite oxidase (SO) deficiency, an inherited disease that causes severe neonatal neurological problems and early death, arises from defects in the biosynthesis of the molybdenum cofactor (Moco) (general sulfite oxidase deficiency) or from inborn errors in the SUOX gene for SO (isolated sulfite oxidase deficiency, ISOD). The X-ray structure of the highly homologous homonuclear dimeric chicken sulfite oxidase (cSO) provides a template for locating ISOD mutation sites in human sulfite oxidase (hSO). Catalysis occurs within an individual subunit of hSO, but mutations that disrupt the hSO dimer are pathological. The catalytic cycle of SO involves five metal oxidation states (MoVI, MoV, MoIV, FeIII, FeII), two intramolecular electron transfer (IET) steps, and couples a two-electron oxygen atom transfer reaction at the Mo center with two one-electron transfers from the integral b-type heme to exogenous cytochrome c, the physiological oxidant. Several ISOD examples are analyzed using steady-state, stopped-flow, and laser flash photolysis kinetics and physical measurements of recombinant variants of hSO and native cSO. In the structure of cSO, MoFe = 32 Å, much too long for efficient IET through the protein. Interdomain motion that brings the Mo and heme centers closer together to facilitate IET is supported indirectly by decreasing the length of the interdomain tether, by changes in the charges of surface residues of the Mo and heme domains, as well as by preliminary molecular dynamics calculations. However, direct dynamic measurements of interdomain motion are in their infancy.

Keywords: Intramolecular electron transfer; Isolated sulfite oxidase deficiency; Laser flash photolysis; Moco; Molybdenum cofactor deficiency; Molybdenum enzymes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Ferric Compounds*
  • Heme / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Molybdenum / chemistry
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on Sulfur Group Donors / chemistry
  • Sulfite Oxidase* / chemistry
  • Sulfite Oxidase* / genetics
  • Sulfite Oxidase* / metabolism


  • Ferric Compounds
  • Heme
  • Molybdenum
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on Sulfur Group Donors
  • Sulfite Oxidase

Supplementary concepts

  • Sulfite oxidase deficiency