The redox-active type 1 copper site of amicyanin is composed of a single copper ion that is coordinated by two histidines, a methionine, and a cysteine residue. This redox site has a potential of +265 mV at pH7.5. Over ten angstroms away from the copper site resides a tryptophan residue whose fluorescence is quenched by the copper. The effects of the tryptophan on the electron transfer (ET) properties were investigated by site-directed mutagenesis. Lessons learned about the hydrogen bonding network of amicyanin from the aforementioned study were attempted to be used as a model to increase the stability of another beta barrel protein, the immunoglobulin light chain variable domain (VL). In addition, amicyanin was used as an alternative redox partner with MauG. MauG is a diheme protein from the mau gene cluster that catalyzes the biogenesis of the tryptophan tryptophylquinone cofactor of methylamine dehydrogenase (MADH). The amicyanin-MauG complex was used to study the free energy dependence and impact of reorganization energy in biological electron transfer reactions. The sole tryptophan of amicyanin was converted to a tyrosine via site-directed mutagenesis. This mutation had no effect on the electron transfer parameters with its redox partners, methylamine dehydrogenase and cytochrome c-551i. However, the pKa of the pH-dependence of the redox potential of the copper site was shifted +0.5 pH units. This was a result of an additional hydrogen bond between Met51 and the copper coordinating residue His95 in the reduced form of amicyanin. This additional hydrogen bond stabilizes the reduced form. Also, the stability of the copper site and the protein overall was significantly decreased, as seen by the temperature dependence of the visible spectrum of the copper site and the circular dichroism spectrum of the protein. This destabilization is attributed to the loss of an interior, cross-barrel hydrogen bond. The VL is structurally similar to amicyanin, but it does not contain any cross-barrel hydrogen bonds. The importance of the cross-barrel hydrogen bond in stabilizing amicyanin is evident. A homologous bond in VL was attempted to be engineered by using site-directed mutagenesis to insert neutral residues with protonatable groups into the core of the protein. Wild-type (WT) VL was purified from the periplasm and found to be properly folded as determined by circular dichroism and size exclusion chromatography. Mutants were expressed in E. coli using the amicyanin signal sequence for periplasmic expression. Folded mutant protein could not be purified from the periplasm. When amicyanin is used in complex with MauG, it retains the pH-dependence of the redox potential of its copper site due to the looseness of the interprotein interface. The free energy of the reaction was manipulated by variation in pH from pH 5.8 to 8.0. The ET parameters are reorganization energy of 2.34 eV and an electronic coupling constant of 0.6 cm-1. P94A amicyanin has a potential that is 120 mV higher than WT amicyanin and was used to extend the range of the free energy dependence studied. The ET parameters of the reaction of WT and P94A amicyanin with MauG were within error of each other. This is significant because the ET reaction of P94A amicyanin with its natural electron acceptor was not able to be studied due to a kinetic coupling of the ET step with a non-ET step. This kinetic coupling obscured the parameters of the ET step because it is not kinetically distinguishable from the ET step. A Y294H MauG mutant was also studied. This mutation replaced the axial tyrosine ligand of the six-coordinate heme of MauG with a histidine. No reaction is observed with Y294H MauG in its native reaction. However, the high valent oxidation state of the five-coordinate heme of Y294H MauG reacts with reduced amicyanin. The ET rate was analyzed by ET theory to study the high valent heme in Y294H MauG. The reorganization energy of Y294H MauG was calculated to be nearly 20% lower as compared to the same reaction with WT MauG. These results provide insight into the obscured nature of reorganization energy of large redox cofactors in proteins, particularly heme cofactors, as well as to how the active sites of enzymes are optimized to perform long range ET vs catalysis with regard to balancing redox potential and reorganization energy.


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Graduation Date





Davidson, Victor


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Medicine


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Degree Program

Biomedical Sciences









Release Date

May 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)