Cytochrome c (Cyt c) has a heme covalently bound to the polypeptide via a Cys-X-X-Cys-His (CXXCH) linker that is located in the interface region for protein-protein interactions. To determine whether the polypeptide matrix influences iron vibrational dynamics, nuclear resonance vibrational spectroscopy (NRVS) measurements were performed on 57Fe-labeled ferric Hydrogenobacter thermophilus cytochrome c-552, and variants M13V, M13V/K22M, and A7F, which have structural modifications that alter the composition or environment of the CXXCH pentapeptide loop. Simulations of the NRVS data indicate that the 150-325 cm-1 region is dominated by NHis-Fe-SMet axial ligand and polypeptide motions, while the 325-400 cm-1 region shows dominant contributions from ν(Fe-NPyr) (Pyr = pyrrole) and other heme-based modes. Diagnostic spectral signatures that directly relate to structural features of the heme active site are identified using a quantum chemistry-centered normal coordinate analysis (QCC-NCA). In particular, spectral features that directly correlate with CXXCH loop stiffness, the strength of the Fe-His interaction, and the degree of heme distortion are identified. Cumulative results from our investigation suggest that compared to the wild type (wt), variants M13V and M13V/K22M have a more rigid CXXCH pentapeptide segment, a stronger Fe-NHis interaction, and a more ruffled heme. Conversely, the A7F variant has a more planar heme and a weaker Fe-NHis bond. These results are correlated to the observed changes in reduction potential between wt protein and the variants studied here. Implications of these results for Cyt c biogenesis and electron transfer are also discussed.
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