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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Dual role of Lys206-Lys296 interaction in human transferrin N-lobe: iron-release trigger and anion-binding site.

The unique structural feature of the dilysine (Lys206-Lys296) pair in the transferrin N-lobe ( hTF/2N) has been postulated to serve a special function in the release of iron from the protein. These two lysines, which are located in opposite domains, hydrogen bond to each other in the iron-containing hTF/2N at neutral pH but are far apart in the apo-form of the protein. It has been proposed that charge repulsion resulting from the protonation of the dilysines at lower pH may be the trigger to open the cleft and facilitate iron release. The fact that the dilysine pair is positively charged and resides in a location close to the metal-binding center has also led to the suggestion that the dilysine pair is an anion-binding site for chelators. The present report provides comprehensive evidence to confirm that the dilysine pair plays this dual role in modulating release of iron. When either of the lysines is mutated to glutamate or glutamine or when both are mutated to glutamate, release of iron is much slower compared to the wild-type protein. This is due to the fact that the driving force for cleft opening is absent in the mutants or is converted to a lock-like interaction (in the case of the K206E and K296E mutants). Direct titration of the apo-proteins with anions as well as anion-dependent iron release studies show that the dilysine pair is part of an active anion-binding site which exists with the Lys296-Tyr188 interaction as a core. At this site, Lys296 serves as the primary anion-binding residue and Tyr188 is the main reporter for electronic spectral change, with smaller contributions from Lys206, Tyr85, and Tyr95. In iron-loaded hTF/2N, anion binding becomes invisible as monitored by UV-vis difference spectra since the spectral reporters Tyr188 and Tyr95 are bound to iron. Our data strongly support the hypothesis that the apo-hTF/2N exists in equilibrium between the open and closed conformations, because only in the closed form is Lys296 in direct contact with Tyr188. The current findings bring together observations, ideas, and experimental data from a large number of previous studies and shed further light on the detailed mechanism of iron release from the transferrin N-lobe. In iron-containing hTF/2N, Lys296 may still function as a target to introduce an anion (or a chelator) near to the iron-binding center. When the pH is lowered, the protonation of carbonate (synergistic anion for metal binding) and then the dilysine pair form the driving force to loosen the cleft, exposing iron; the nearby anion (or chelator) then binds to the iron and releases it from the protein.[1]


  1. Dual role of Lys206-Lys296 interaction in human transferrin N-lobe: iron-release trigger and anion-binding site. He, Q.Y., Mason, A.B., Tam, B.M., MacGillivray, R.T., Woodworth, R.C. Biochemistry (1999) [Pubmed]
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