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In nature, heme cofactor-containing proteins participate not only in electron transfer and O storage and transport but also in biosynthesis and degradation. The simplest and representative cofactor, heme b, is bound within the heme pocket via noncovalent interaction in many hemoproteins, suggesting that the cofactor is removable from the protein, leaving a unique cavity. Since the cavity functions as a coordination sphere for heme, it is of particular interest to investigate replacement of native heme with an artificial metal complex, because the substituted metal complex will be stabilized in the heme pocket while providing alternative chemical properties. Thus, cofactor substitution has great potential for engineering of hemoproteins with alternative functions. For these studies, myoglobin has been a focus of our investigations, because it is a well-known oxygen storage hemoprotein. However, the heme pocket of myoglobin has been only arranged for stabilizing the heme-bound dioxygen, so the structure is not suitable for activation of small molecules such as HO and O as well as for binding an external substrate. Thus, the conversion of myoglobin to an enzyme-like biocatalyst has presented significant challenges. The results of our investigations have provided useful information for chemists and biologists. Our own efforts to develop functionalized myoglobin have focused on the incorporation of a chemically modified cofactor into apomyoglobin in order to (1) construct an artificial substrate-binding site near the heme pocket, (2) increase cofactor reactivity, or (3) promote a new reaction that has never before been catalyzed by a native heme enzyme. In pursuing these objectives, we first found that myoglobin reconstituted with heme having a chemically modified heme-propionate side chain at the exit of the heme pocket has peroxidase activity with respect to oxidation of phenol derivatives. Our recent investigations have succeeded in enhancing oxidation and oxygenation activities of myoglobin as well as promoting new reactions by reconstitution of myoglobin with new porphyrinoid metal complexes. Incorporation of suitable metal porphyrinoids into the heme pocket has produced artificial enzymes capable of efficiently generating reactive high valent metal-oxo and metallocarbene intermediates to achieve the catalytic hydroxylation of C(sp)-H bonds and cyclopropanation of olefin molecules, respectively. In other efforts, we have focused on nitrobindin, an NO-binding hemoprotein, because aponitrobindin includes a β-barrel cavity, which provides a robust structure highly similar to that of the native holoprotein. It was expected that the aponitrobindin would be suitable for development as a protein scaffold for a metal complex. Recently, it was confirmed that several organometallic complexes can bind to this scaffold and function as catalysts promoting hydrogen evolution or C-C bond formation. The hydrophobic β-barrel structure plays a significant role in substrate binding as well as controlling the stereoselectivity of the reactions. Furthermore, these catalytic activities and stereoselectivities are remarkably improved by mutation-dependent modifications of the cavity structure for the artificial cofactor. This Account demonstrates how apoproteins of hemoproteins can provide useful protein scaffolds for metal complexes. Further development of these concepts will provide a useful strategy for generation of robust and useful artificial metalloenzymes.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Accounts of chemical research
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