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This perspective seeks to discuss why biology often modifies the fundamental iron-protoporphyrin IX moiety that is the very versatile cofactor of many heme proteins. A very common modification is the attachment of this cofactor via covalent bonds to two (or rarely one) sulfur atoms of cysteine residue side chains. This modification results in c-type cytochromes, which have diverse structures and functions. The covalent bonds are made in different ways depending on the cell type. There is little understanding of the reasons for this complexity in assembly routes but proposals for the rationale behind the covalent modification are presented. In contrast to the widespread c-type cytochromes, the d1 heme is restricted to a single enzyme, the cytochrome cd1 nitrite reductase that catalyses the one-electron reduction of nitrite to nitric oxide. This is an extensively derivatised heme; a comparison is drawn with another type of respiratory nitrite reductase in which the active site is a c-type heme, but the product ammonia.

Original publication




Journal article


Dalton Trans

Publication Date



3410 - 3418


Antibodies, Monoclonal, Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized, Catalysis, Cytochromes, Heme, Nitrite Reductases, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular