9.B.14 The Putative Heme Handling Protein (HHP) Family
The proteins of the HHP family are large with ~650 amino acids and 15 putative TMSs. Parts of them are homologous to the E. coli CycZ putative heme exporter (9.B.14.2.1), the plant chloroplast cytochrome c biogenesis proteins such as CcsA of Chlamydomonas reinhardii (spP48269) and to HelC of Rhodobacter capsulatus (spP29961), also a 6 TMS protein thought to be involved in heme export. Ccl1 of R. capsulatus has been experimentally shown to have eleven TMSs. CcsA of Mycobacterium leprae has been shown to have 6 TMSs. SwissProt puts these homologues in the CcsA/CcmF/CycK/Cel1 family. This family is distantly related to the SwissProt CcmC/CycZ/HelC family (Lee et al., 2007). The functions of these proteins are not known, but some evidence suggests that at least some of them may be heme exporters (Baysse et al., 2003). CcmC of E. coli binds heme and interacts with CcmE, a heme chaperone protein that inserts heme into apocytochrome C (Ren and Thöny-Meyer, 2001). Kranz et al. (2009) have reviewed aspects of Cytochrome c biogenesis including the mechanisms for covalent modifications and trafficking of heme and for heme-iron redox control.
Three major members of the HHP family (CcmC, CcmF and CcsBA), involved in cytochrome c biosynthesis, possess a conserved tryptophan-rich region (called the WWD domain) in an external loop at the inner membrane surface. The WWD domain binds heme to present it to an acceptor protein (apoCcmE for CcmC or apocytochrome c for CcmF and CcsBA) such that the heme vinyl group covalently attaches to the acceptor. CcmE only interacts stably with CcmC when heme is present. Endogenously synthesized heme enters the external WWD domain of CcmC either via a channel within this six-transmembrane-spanning protein or from the membrane (Richard-Fogal and Kranz, 2010).
Frawley and Kranz, (2009) showed that CcsBA exports and protects heme from oxidation. CcsBA has 10 apparent TMSs and reconstitutes cytochrome c synthesis in the E. coli periplasm; thus, CcsBA is a cytochrome c synthetase. Purified CcsBA contains heme in an 'external heme binding domain' for which two external histidines are shown to serve as axial ligands that protect the heme iron from oxidation. This may be the active site of the synthetase. Furthermore, two conserved histidines in TMSs are required for heme to travel to the external heme binding domain. Thus, CcsBA is a heme channel with a heme binding site within the bilayer.