CuA centers and their biosynthetic models in azurin



CuA is a binuclear copper center that functions as an electron transfer agent, cycling between a reduced Cu(I)Cu(I) state and an oxidized mixed-valence Cu(+1.5)···Cu(+1.5) state. The copper ions are bridged by two cysteine thiolate ligands and form a copper–copper bond, the first reported of its kind in Nature. Such a “diamond-core” Cu2S(Cys)2 structure allows an unpaired electron to be completely delocalized over the two copper ions and contributes to its highly efficient electron transfer properties. This review provides accounts of how the CuA center was structurally characterized and highlights its salient spectroscopic properties. In the process, it introduces the CuA center in four different systems—native protein systems, soluble protein truncates of native proteins, synthetic models using organic molecules, and biosynthetic models using proteins as ligands—with a greater emphasis on biosynthetic models of CuA, especially on new, deeper insights gained from their studies.


Biosynthesis Electron transfer Protein engineering Cytochrome c oxidase 



Cytochrome c oxidase


Circular dichroism


Charge transfer


CuA in amicyanin


CuA in azurin


Electron–nuclear double resonance


Electron paramagnetic resonance


Electron transfer


Extended X-ray absorption fine structure


Highest occupied molecular orbital


Magnetic circular dichroism


Molecular orbital


Nitrous oxide reductase


Resonance Raman


Type 1


Type 2


X-ray absorption spectroscopy



We wish to thank the US National Science Foundation and its Special Creativity Extension Award (award no. CHE 05-52008) for continued financial support. We would also like to thank other Lu group members for their intellectual contributions to work described in this review, Kyle D. Miner for help in modifying the figures, and Dewain K. Garner and Tiffany D. Wilson for their help in reference compilation and proof-reading.


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Copyright information

© SBIC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryMichigan State University DubaiDubaiUnited Arab Emirates

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