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Cytochromes c are typically characterized by the covalent attachment of heme to polypeptide through two thioether bonds with the cysteine residues of a Cys-Xaa-Xaa-Cys-His peptide motif. In many Gram-negative bacteria, the heme is attached to the polypeptide by the periplasmically functioning cytochrome c maturation (Ccm) proteins. Exceptionally, Hydrogenobacter thermophilus cytochrome c(552), which has a normal CXXCH heme-binding motif, and variants with AXXCH, CXXAH, and AXXAH motifs, can be expressed as stable holocytochromes in the cytoplasm of Escherichia coli. By targeting these proteins to the periplasm using a signal peptide, with or without co-expression of the Ccm proteins, we have assessed the ability of the Ccm system to attach heme to proteins with no, one, or two cysteine residues in the heme-binding motif. Only the wild-type protein, with two cysteines, was effectively processed and thus accumulated in the periplasm as a holocytochrome. This is strong evidence for disulfide bond formation involving the two cysteine residues of apocytochrome c as an intermediate in Ccm-type Gram-negative bacterial cytochrome c biogenesis and/or that only a pair of cysteines can be recognized by the heme attachment apparatus.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





33559 - 33563


Amino Acid Motifs, Apoproteins, Binding Sites, Cysteine, Cytochrome c Group, Cytochromes c, Escherichia coli, Heme