Addition of Cu(II) ions to human oxyhaemoglobin caused the rapid oxidation of the haem groups of the beta-chain. Oxidation required binding of Cu(II) to sites involving the thiol group of beta-93 residues and was prevented when these groups were blocked with iodoacetamide or N-ethylmaleimide. Equilibrium-dialysis studies showed three pairs of binding sites, two pairs with high affinity for Cu(II) and one pair with lower affinity. It was the second pair of high-affinity sites that were blocked with iodoacetamide and were involved in haem oxidation. Cu(II) oxidized deoxyhaemoglobin at least ten times as fast as oxyhaemoglobin, and analysis of rates suggested that binding rather than electron transfer was the rate-determining step. No thiol-group oxidation to disulphides occurred during the period of haem oxidation, although it did occur subsequently in the presence of oxygen, or when Cu(II) was added to methaemoglobin. It is proposed that thiol oxidation did not occur because there exists a pathway of electron transfer between the haem group and copper bound to the beta-93 thiol groups. The route for this electron transfer is discussed, as well as the implications as to the function of the beta-93 cysteine in the haemoglobin molecule.
- © 1977 London: The Biochemical Society