Unusual Reduction Mechanism of Copper in Cysteine-Rich Environment

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Copper-cysteine interactions play an important role in Biology and herein we used the copper-substituted rubredoxin (Cu-Rd) from Desulfovibrio gigas to gain further insights into the copper-cysteine redox chemistry. EPR spectroscopy results are consistent with Cu-Rd harboring a CuII center in a sulfur-rich coordination, in a distorted tetrahedral structure (g∥,⊥ = 2.183 and 2.032 and A∥,⊥ = 76.4 × 10-4 and 12 × 10-4 cm-1). In Cu-Rd, two oxidation states at Cu-center (CuII and CuI) are associated with Cys oxidation-reduction, alternating in the redox cycle, as pointed by electrochemical studies that suggest internal geometry rearrangements associated with the electron transfer processes. The midpoint potential of [CuI(S-Cys)2(Cys-S-S-Cys)]/[CuII(S-Cys)4] redox couple was found to be -0.15 V vs NHE showing a large separation of cathodic and anodic peaks potential (ΔEp = 0.575 V). Interestingly, sulfur-rich CuII-Rd is highly stable under argon in dark conditions, which is thermodynamically unfavorable to Cu-thiol autoreduction. The reduction of copper and concomitant oxidation of Cys can both undergo two possible pathways: oxidative as well as photochemical. Under O2, CuII plays the role of the electron carrier from one Cys to O2 followed by internal geometry rearrangement at the Cu site, which facilitates reduction at Cu-center to yield CuI(S-Cys)2(Cys-S-S-Cys). Photoinduced (irradiated at λex = 280 nm) reduction of the CuII center is observed by UV-visible photolysis (above 300 nm all bands disappeared) and tryptophan fluorescence (∼335 nm peak enhanced) experiments. In both pathways, geometry reorganization plays an important role in copper reduction yielding an energetically compatible donor-acceptor system. This model system provides unusual stability and redox chemistry rather than the universal Cu-thiol auto redox chemistry in cysteine-rich copper complexes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8078-8088
Number of pages11
JournalInorganic Chemistry
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2018


  • Azurin
  • Copper
  • Blue copper


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