Zinc to cadmium replacement in the prokaryotic zinc-finger domain
Given the similar chemical properties of zinc and cadmium, zinc finger domains have been often proposed as mediators of the toxic and carcinogenic effects exerted by this xenobiotic metal. The effects of zinc replacement by cadmium in different eukaryotic zinc fingers have been reported. In the present work, to evaluate the effects of such substitution in the prokaryotic zinc finger, we report a detailed study of its functional and structural consequences on the Ros DNA binding domain (Ros87). We show that this protein, which bears important structural differences with respect to the eukaryotic domains, appears to structurally tolerate the zinc to cadmium substitution and the presence of cadmium does not affect the DNA binding activity of the protein. Moreover, we show for the first time how zinc to cadmium replacement can also take place in a cellular context. Our findings both complement and extend previous results obtained for different eukaryotic zinc fingers, suggesting that metal substitution in zinc fingers may be of relevance to the toxicity and/or carcinogenicity mechanisms of this metal.