ApoHRP-based assay to measure intracellular regulatory heme
The majority of the heme-binding proteins possess a “heme-pocket” that stably binds to heme. Usually known as housekeeping heme-proteins, they participate in a variety of metabolic reactions (e.g., catalase). Heme also binds with lower affinity to the “Heme-Regulatory Motifs” (HRM) in specific regulatory proteins. This type of heme binding is known as exchangeable or regulatory heme (RH). Heme binding to HRM proteins regulates their function (e.g., Bach1). Although there are well-established methods for assaying total cellular heme (e.g., heme-proteins plus RH), currently there is no method available for measuring RH independent of the total heme (TH). The current study describes and validates a new method to measure intracellular RH. This method is based on the reconstitution of apo-horseradish peroxidase (apoHRP) with heme to form holoHRP. The resulting holoHRP activity is then measured with a colorimetric substrate. The results show that apoHRP specifically binds RH but not with heme from housekeeping heme-proteins. The RH assay detects intracellular RH. Furthermore, using conditions that create positive (hemin) or negative (N-methyl protoporphyrin IX) controls for heme in normal human fibroblasts (IMR90), the RH assay shows that RH is dynamic and independent of TH. We also demonstrated that short-term exposure to subcytotoxic concentrations of lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), or amyloid-β (Aβ) significantly alters intracellular RH with little effect on TH. In conclusion the RH assay is an effective assay to investigate intracellular RH concentration and demonstrates that RH represents ∼6% of total heme in IMR90 cells.