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Review Article

Recent Advances in the Understanding of the Reaction Chemistries of the Heme Catabolizing Enzymes HO and BVR Based on High Resolution Protein Structures

[ Vol. 27 , Issue. 21 ]


Masakazu Sugishima*, Kei Wada and Keiichi Fukuyama*   Pages 3499 - 3518 ( 20 )


In mammals, catabolism of the heme group is indispensable for life. Heme is first cleaved by the enzyme Heme Oxygenase (HO) to the linear tetrapyrrole Biliverdin IXα (BV), and BV is then converted into bilirubin by Biliverdin Reductase (BVR). HO utilizes three Oxygen molecules (O2) and seven electrons supplied by NADPH-cytochrome P450 oxidoreductase (CPR) to open the heme ring and BVR reduces BV through the use of NAD(P)H. Structural studies of HOs, including substrate-bound, reaction intermediate-bound, and several specific inhibitor-bound forms, reveal details explaining substrate binding to HO and mechanisms underlying-specific HO reaction progression. Cryo-trapped structures and a time-resolved spectroscopic study examining photolysis of the bond between the distal ligand and heme iron demonstrate how CO, produced during the HO reaction, dissociates from the reaction site with a corresponding conformational change in HO. The complex structure containing HO and CPR provides details of how electrons are transferred to the heme-HO complex. Although the tertiary structure of BVR and its complex with NAD+ was determined more than 10 years ago, the catalytic residues and the reaction mechanism of BVR remain unknown. A recent crystallographic study examining cyanobacterial BVR in complex with NADP+ and substrate BV provided some clarification regarding these issues. Two BV molecules are bound to BVR in a stacked manner, and one BV may assist in the reductive catalysis of the other BV. In this review, recent advances illustrated by biochemical, spectroscopic, and crystallographic studies detailing the chemistry underlying the molecular mechanism of HO and BVR reactions are presented.


X-ray crystallography, Protein structure, Redox complex, Heme metabolism, Enzymatic reaction, Ligand discrimination, Stacked substrate-binding mode.


Department of Medical Biochemistry, Kurume University School of Medicine, Kurume, Department of Medical Sciences, University of Miyazaki, Miyazaki, Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Osaka University, Toyonaka

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