Copper coordination in blue proteins
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The spectroscopic and electrochemical properties of blue copper proteins are strikingly different from those of inorganic copper complexes in aqueous solution. Over three decades ago this unusual behavior was ascribed to constrained coordination in the folded protein; consistent with this view, crystal structure determinations of blue proteins have demonstrated that the ligand positions are essentially unchanged on reduction as well as in the apoprotein. Blue copper reduction potentials are tuned to match the particular function of a given protein by exclusion of water from the metal site and strict control of the positions of axial ligands in the folded structure. Extensive experimental work has established that the reorganization energy of a prototypal protein, Pseudomonas aeruginosa azurin, is ~0.7 eV, a value that is much lower than those of inorganic copper complexes in aqueous solution. The lowered reorganization energy in the protein, which is attributable to constrained coordination, is critically important for function, since the driving forces for electron transfer often are low (~0.1 eV) between blue copper centers and distant (>10 Å) donors and acceptors.
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