Heme oxygenase (HO) is the microsomal enzyme that catalyzes the oxidative degradation of protoheme (iron protoporphyrin IX) and the generation of carbon monoxide. The enzyme converts protoheme into biliverdin through two known heme derivatives, α-hydroxyheme and verdoheme. To gain insight into the degradation mechanisms of the two intermediates, the resonance Raman spectra were observed for α-hydroxyheme and verdoheme complexes of HO and compared with those of apomyoglobin (apo-Mb) complexes. The ferrous α-hydroxyheme complexed with both HO and apo-Mb shows a resonance Raman spectral pattern similar to that of the protoheme complexes. On the contrary, the ferric α-hydroxyheme and ferrous verdoheme complexes of HO and apo-Mb show atypical Raman patterns, which are interpreted as the result of the symmetry lowering of the porphyrin-conjugated π-electron system. The comparison of the resonance Raman spectra of the verdoheme complexed with HO and apo-Mb with those of the five- and six-coordinate model complexes of verdoheme shows that the ferrous forms of the verdoheme-protein complexes are six-coordinate. The Fe-CO and Fe-CN stretching frequencies of ferrous verdoheme compounds are distinct froth those of ferrous heme compounds. It is inferred that the positive charge of the verdoheme ring possesses some of the charge density on the iron atom, causing unique characteristics of the iron ligand stretching vibrations and altered ligand binding properties.
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