The spectroscopic and reactivity properties of hemin complexes formed with cyanogen bromide fragments B (residues 1-123), C (124-298), A (299-585), and D (1-298) of human serum albumin (HSA) have been investigated. The complex hemin-D exhibits binding, spectral, circular dichroism, and reactivity characteristics very similar to those of hemin-HSA, indicating that fragment D contains the entire HSA domain involved in heme binding. The characteristics of the other hemin complexes are different, and a detailed investigation of the properties of hemin-C has been carried out because this fragment contains the HSA binding region of several important drugs. Hemin-C contains a low-spin Fe(III) center, with two imidazole ligands, but the complex undergoes a reversible structural transition at basic pH leading to a high-spin, five-coordinated Fe(III) species. This change determines a marked increase in the relaxation rate of water protons. Limited proteolysis experiments and mass spectral analysis carried out on fragment C and hemin-C show that the region encompassing residues Glu-208 to Trp-214 is protected from activity of proteases in the complex and,therefore, is involved in the interaction with hemin. A structural model of fragment C enables us to propose that His-242 and His-288 are the axial ligands for the Fe(III) center.
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