In silico prediction of heme binding in proteins

Noa A Marson, Andrea E Gallio, Suman K Mandal, Roman Laskowski, Emma Raven*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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The process of heme binding to a protein is prevalent in almost all forms of life to control many important biological properties, such as O2-binding, electron transfer, gas sensing or to build catalytic power. In these cases, heme typically binds tightly (irreversibly) to a protein in a discrete heme binding pocket, with one or two heme ligands provided most commonly to the heme iron by His, Cys or Tyr residues. Heme binding can also be used as a regulatory mechanism, for example in transcriptional regulation or ion channel control. When used as a regulator, heme binds more weakly, with different heme ligations and without the need for a discrete heme pocket. This makes the characterization of heme regulatory proteins difficult, and new approaches are needed to predict and understand the heme-protein interactions. We apply a modified version of the ProFunc bioinformatics tool to identify heme-binding sites in a test set of heme-dependent regulatory proteins taken from the Protein Data Bank and AlphaFold models. The potential heme binding sites identified can be easily visualized in PyMol and, if necessary, optimized with RosettaDOCK. We demonstrate that the methodology can be used to identify heme-binding sites in proteins, including in cases where there is no crystal structure available, but the methodology is more accurate when the quality of the structural information is high. The ProFunc tool, with the modification used in this work, is publicly available at and can be readily adopted for the examination of new heme binding targets.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107250
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number5
Early online date2 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2024

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