Routes of iron entry into, and exit from, the catalytic ferroxidase sites of the prokaryotic ferritin SynFtn†
Ferritins are multimers comprised of 4 α-helical bundle monomers that co-assemble to form protein shells surrounding an approximately spherical internal cavity. The assembled multimers acquire Fe2+ from their surroundings by utilising channels that penetrate the protein for the transportation of iron to diiron catalytic centres buried within the monomeric units. Here oxidation of the substrate to Fe3+ is coupled to the reduction of O2 and/or peroxide to yield the precursor to a ferric oxy hydroxide mineral that is stored within the internal cavity. The rhombic dodecahedral quaternary structure results in channels of 4-fold and 3-fold symmetry, located at the vertices, which are common to all 24mer-ferritins. Ferritins isolated from higher eukaryotes have been demonstrated to take up Fe2+ via the 3-fold channels. One of the defining features of ferritins isolated from prokaryotes is the presence of a further 24 channels, the B-channels, and these are thought to play an important role in Fe2+ uptake in this sub-family. SynFtn is an unusual ferritin isolated from the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus CC9311. The reported structure of SynFtn derived from Fe2+ soaked crystals revealed the presence of a fully hydrated Fe2+ associated with three aspartate residues (Asp137 from each of the three symmetry related subunits) within each three-fold channel, suggesting that it might be the route for Fe2+ entry. Here, we present structural and spectro-kinetic data on two variants of SynFtn, D137A and E62A, designed to assess this possibility. Glu62 is equivalent to residues demonstrated to be important in the transfer of iron from the inner exit of the 3-fold channel to the catalytic centre in animal ferritins. As expected replacing Asp137 with a non-coordinating residue eliminated rapid iron oxidation by SynFtn. In contrast the rate of mineral core formation was severely impaired whilst the rate of iron transit into the catalytic centre was largely unaffected upon introducing a non-coordinating residue in place of Glu62 suggesting a role for this residue in release of the oxidised product. The identification of these two residues in SynFtn maps out major routes for Fe2+ entry to, and exit from, the catalytic ferroxidase centres.