The Proapoptotic G41S Mutation to Human Cytochrome c Alters the Heme Electronic Structure and Increases the Electron Self-Exchange Rate

The naturally occurring G41S mutation to human (Hs) cytochrome (cyt) c enhances apoptotic activity based upon previous in vitro and in vivo studies, but the molecular mechanism underlying this enhancement remains unknown. Here, X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and density functional theory (DFT) calculations have been used to identify the structural and electronic differences between wild-type (WT) and G41S Hs cyt c. S41 is part of the hydrogen bonding network for propionate 7 of heme pyrrole ring A in the X-ray structure of G41S Hs cyt c and, compared to WT, G41S Hs cyt c has increased spin density on pyrrole ring C and a faster electron self-exchange rate. DFT calculations illustrate an electronic mechanism where structural changes near ring A can result in electronic changes at ring C. Since ring C is part of the solvent-exposed protein surface, we propose that this heme electronic structure change may ultimately be responsible for the enhanced proapoptotic activity of G41S Hs cyt c.