A cooperative oxygen-binding hemoglobin from Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Manon Couture, Syun Ru Yeh, Beatrice A. Wittenberg, Jonathan B. Wittenberg, Yannick Ouellet, Denis L. Rousseau, Michel Guertin

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202 Scopus citations


Two putative hemoglobin genes, glbN and glbO, were recently discovered in the complete genome sequence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv. Here, we show that the glbN gene encodes a dimeric hemoglobin (HbN) that binds oxygen cooperatively with very high affinity (P50 = 0.013 mmHg at 20 °C) because of a fast combination (25 μM-1 · s-1) and a slow dissociation (0.2 s- 1) rate. Resonance Raman spectroscopy and ligand association/dissociation kinetic measurements, along with mutagenesis studies, reveal that the stabilization of the bound oxygen is achieved through a tyrosine at the B10 position in the distal pocket of the heme with a conformation that is unique among the globins. Physiological studies performed with Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guerin demonstrate that the expression of HbN is greatly enhanced during the stationary phase in aerobic cultures but not under conditions of limited oxygen availability. The results suggest that, physiologically, the primary role of HbN may be to protect the bacilli against reactive nitrogen species produced by the host macrophage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11223-11228
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - Sep 28 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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