Peter Heathcote

University of Milan, Milano, Lombardy, Italy

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Publications (88)338.24 Total impact

  • P. Heathcote · M.R. Jones
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Photosynthetic reaction centers (RCs) are nature's solar batteries. These nanometre-scale power producers are responsible for transducing the energy of sunlight into a form that can be used by biological systems, thereby powering virtually all of the biological activity on the planet. This chapter describes the structures and mechanisms of the different RCs that power biology, starting with the simplest and most heavily characterized system, the purple bacterial RC, before turning to the related Photosystem II RC. There then follows an account of charge separation in Photosystem I, and the chapter ends by outlining the homodimeric RCs from obligate anaerobic photosynthetic bacteria.
    No preview · Chapter · Dec 2012
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Crystallographic models of photosystem I (PS I) highlight a symmetrical arrangement of the electron transfer cofactors which are organized in two parallel branches (A, B) relative to a pseudo-C2 symmetry axis that is perpendicular to the membrane plane. Here, we explore the electron transfer pathways of PS I in whole cells of the deuterated green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii using high-time-resolution electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) at cryogenic temperatures. Particular emphasis is given to quantum oscillations detectable in the tertiary radical pairs P700(+)A1A(-) and P700(+)A1B(-) of the electron transfer chain. Results are presented first for the deuterated site-directed mutant PsaA-M684H in which electron transfer beyond the primary electron acceptor A0A on the PsaA branch of electron transfer is impaired. Analysis of the quantum oscillations, observed in a two-dimensional Q-band (34 GHz) EPR experiment, provides the geometry of the B-side radical pair. The orientation of the g tensor of P700(+) in an external reference system is adapted from a time-resolved multifrequency EPR study of deuterated and 15N-substituted cyanobacteria (Link, G.; Berthold, T.; Bechtold, M.; Weidner, J.-U.; Ohmes, E.; Tang, J.; Poluektov, O.; Utschig, L.; Schlesselman, S. L.; Thurnauer, M. C.; Kothe, G. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2001, 123, 4211-4222). Thus, we obtain the three-dimensional structure of the B-side radical pair following photoexcitation of PS I in its native membrane. The new structure describes the position and orientation of the reduced B-side quinone A1B(-) on a nanosecond time scale after light-induced charge separation. Furthermore, we present results for deuterated wild-type cells of C. reinhardtii demonstrating that both radical pairs P700(+)A1A(-) and P700(+)A1B(-) participate in the electron transfer process according to a mole ratio of 0.71/0.29 in favor of P700(+)A1A(-). A detailed comparison reveals different orientations of A1A(-) and A1B(-) in their respective binding sites such that formation of a strong hydrogen bond from A1(-) to the protein backbone is possible only in the case of A1A(-). We suggest that this is relevant to the rates of forward electron transfer from A1A(-) or A1B(-) to the iron-sulfur center F(X), which differ by a factor of 10. Thus, the present study sheds new light on the orientation of the phylloquinone acceptors in their binding pockets in PS I and the effect this has on function.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2012 · Journal of the American Chemical Society
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The relationship between membrane protein structure and thermal stability has been examined in the reaction centre from the bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides, a complex membrane protein comprising three polypeptide chains and 10 cofactors. The core of this protein exhibits an approximate twofold symmetry, the cofactors being held in two membrane-spanning branches by two polypeptides, termed L and M, that have very similar folds. In assays of the thermal stability of wild-type and mutant reaction centres embedded in the native bilayer membrane, replacement of a Phe at position 197 of the M polypeptide by His produced an increase in stability, whereas an opposing replacement of His by Phe at the symmetrical position 168 of the L-polypeptide produced a decrease in stability. In light of the known X-ray crystal structures of wild-type and mutant variants of this protein, and further mutagenesis, it is concluded that these stability changes result from the introduction or removal, respectively, of a hydrogen bond between the side-chain of the His and that of an Asn located two positions along the M or L polypeptide chain, in addition to a hydrogen bond between the His side-chain and an adjacent bacteriochlorophyll cofactor.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2010 · Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: NAD is an important cofactor and essential molecule in all living organisms. In many eubacteria, including several pathogens, the first two steps in the de novo synthesis of NAD are catalyzed by l-aspartate oxidase (NadB) and quinolinate synthase (NadA). Despite the important role played by these two enzymes in NAD metabolism, many of their biochemical and structural properties are still largely unknown. In the present study, we cloned, overexpressed and characterized NadA and NadB from Bacillus subtilis, one of the best studied bacteria and a model organism for low-GC Gram-positive bacteria. Our data demonstrated that NadA from B. subtilis possesses a [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster, and we also identified the cysteine residues involved in the cluster binding. The [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster is coordinated by three cysteine residues (Cys110, Cys230, and Cys320) that are conserved in all the NadA sequences reported so far, suggesting a new noncanonical binding motif that, on the basis of sequence alignment studies, may be common to other quinolinate synthases from different organisms. Moreover, for the first time, it was shown that the interaction between NadA and NadB is not species-specific between B. subtilis and Escherichia coli.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2008 · FEBS Journal
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    Peter Heathcote
    Preview · Article · Jul 2008 · Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics
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    Anthony L. Moore · Peter Heathcote · Kiyoshi Kita · Mary S. Albury
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2008 · Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During chlorophyll and bacteriochlorophyll biosynthesis in gymnosperms, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria, dark-operative protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase (DPOR) reduces ring D of aromatic protochlorophyllide stereospecifically to produce chlorophyllide. We describe the heterologous overproduction of DPOR subunits BchN, BchB, and BchL from Chlorobium tepidum in Escherichia coli allowing their purification to apparent homogeneity. The catalytic activity was found to be 3.15 nmol min-1 mg-1 with Km values of 6.1 μm for protochlorophyllide, 13.5 μm for ATP, and 52.7 μm for the reductant dithionite. To identify residues important in DPOR function, 21 enzyme variants were generated by site-directed mutagenesis and investigated for their metal content, spectroscopic features, and catalytic activity. Two cysteine residues (Cys97 and Cys131) of homodimeric BchL2 are found to coordinate an intersubunit [4Fe-4S] cluster, essential for low potential electron transfer to (BchNB)2 as part of the reduction of the protochlorophyllide substrate. Similarly, Lys10 and Leu126 are crucial to ATP-driven electron transfer from BchL2. The activation energy of DPOR electron transfer is 22.2 kJ mol-1 indicating a requirement for 4 ATP per catalytic cycle. At the amino acid level, BchL is 33% identical to the nitrogenase subunit NifH allowing a first tentative structural model to be proposed. In (BchNB)2, we find that four cysteine residues, three from BchN (Cys21, Cys46, and Cys103) and one from BchB (Cys94), coordinate a second inter-subunit [4Fe-4S] cluster required for catalysis. No evidence for any type of molybdenum-containing cofactor was found, indicating that the DPOR subunit BchN clearly differs from the homologous nitrogenase subunit NifD. Based on the available data we propose an enzymatic mechanism of DPOR.
    Full-text · Article · May 2008 · Journal of Biological Chemistry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The alternative oxidase is a respiratory chain protein found in plants, fungi and some parasites that still remains physically uncharacterised. In this report we present EPR evidence from parallel mode experiments which reveal signals at approximately g=16 in both purified alternative oxidase protein (g=16.9), isolated mitochondrial membranes (g=16.1), and in trypanosomal AOX expressed in Escherichia coli membranes (g=16.4). Such signals are indicative of a dicarboxylate diiron centre at the active site of the enzyme. To our knowledge these data represent the first EPR signals from AOX present in its native environment.
    Full-text · Article · May 2008 · Biochimica et Biophysica Acta
  • Peter Heathcote · Jonathan Nugent
    No preview · Article · Apr 2008 · Photosynthesis Research
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ring contraction during cobalamin (vitamin B12) biosynthesis requires a seemingly futile methylation of the C20 position of the tetrapyrrole framework. Along the anaerobic route, this reaction is catalyzed by CbiL, which transfers a methyl group from S-adenosyl-L-methionine to cobalt factor II to generate cobalt factor III. CbiL belongs to the class III methyltransferases and displays similarity to other cobalamin biosynthetic methyltransferases that are responsible for the regiospecific methylation of a number of positions on the tetrapyrrole molecular canvas. In an attempt to understand how CbiL selectively methylates the C20 position, a detailed structure function analysis of the enzyme has been undertaken. In this paper, we demonstrate that the enzyme methylates the C20 position, that its preferred substrate is cobalt factor II, and that the metal ion does not undergo any oxidation change during the course of the reaction. The enzyme was crystallized, and its structure was determined by x-ray crystallography, revealing that the 26-kDa protein has a similar overall topology to other class III enzymes. This helped in the identification of some key amino acid residues (Asp(104), Lys(176), and Tyr(220)). Analysis of mutant variants of these groups has allowed us to suggest potential roles that these side chains may play in substrate binding and catalysis. EPR analysis of binary and ternary complexes indicate that the protein donates a fifth ligand to the cobalt ion via a gated mechanism to prevent transfer of the methyl group to water. The chemical logic underpinning the methylation is discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2007 · Journal of Biological Chemistry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The analysis of FDMR spectra, recorded at multiple emission wavelengths, by a global decomposition technique, has allowed us to characterise the triplet populations associated with Photosystem I and Photosystem II of thylakoids in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Three triplet populations are observed at fluorescence emissions characteristic of Photosystem II, and their zero field splitting parameters have been determined. These are similar to the zero field parameters for the three Photosystem II triplets previously reported for spinach thylakoids, suggesting that they have a widespread occurrence in nature. None of these triplets have the zero field splitting parameters characteristic of the Photosystem II recombination triplet observed only under reducing conditions. Because these triplets are generated under non-reducing redox conditions, when the recombination triplet is undetectable, it is suggested that they may be involved in the photoinhibition of Photosystem II. At emission wavelengths characteristic of Photosystem I, three triplet populations are observed, two of which are attributed to the P(700) recombination triplet frozen in two different conformations, based on the microwave-induced fluorescence emission spectra and the triplet minus singlet difference spectra. The third triplet population detected at Photosystem I emission wavelengths, which was previously unresolved, is proposed to originate from the antenna chlorophyll of the core or the unusually blue-shifted outer antenna complexes of this organism.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2007 · Biochimica et Biophysica Acta
  • F. Bohles · S. Santabarbara · P. Heathcote · M. Jones
    No preview · Article · Feb 2007 · Photosynthesis Research
  • No preview · Article · Feb 2007 · Photosynthesis Research
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A conserved tryptophan residue located between the A(1B) and F(X) redox centres on the PsaB side of the Photosystem I reaction centre has been mutated to a glycine in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, thereby matching the conserved residue found in the equivalent position on the PsaA side. This mutant (PsaB:W669G) was studied using EPR spectroscopy with a view to understanding the molecular basis of the reported kinetic differences in forward electron transfer from the A(1A) and the A(1B) phyllo(semi)quinones. The kinetics of A(1)(-) reoxidation due to forward electron transfer or charge recombination were measured by electron spin echo spectroscopy at 265 K and 100 K, respectively. At 265 K, the reoxidation kinetics are considerably lengthened in the mutant in comparison to the wild-type. Under conditions in which F(X) is initially oxidised the kinetics of charge recombination at 100 K are found to be biphasic in the mutant while they are substantially monophasic in the wild-type. Pre-reduction of F(X) leads to biphasic kinetics in the wild-type, but does not alter the already biphasic kinetic properties of the PsaB:W669G mutant. Reduction of the [4Fe-4S] clusters F(A) and F(B) by illumination at 15 K is suppressed in the mutant. The results provide further support for the bi-directional model of electron transfer in Photosystem I of C. reinhardtii, and indicate that the replacement of the tryptophan residue with glycine mainly affects the redox properties of the PsaB bound phylloquinone A(1B).
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2007 · Biochimica et Biophysica Acta
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We studied the kinetics of reoxidation of the phylloquinones in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii Photosystem I using site-directed mutations in the PhQ(A)-binding site and of the residues serving as the axial ligand to ec3(A) and ec3(B) chlorophylls. In wild type PS I, these kinetics are biphasic, and mutations in the binding region of PhQ(A) induced a specific slowing down of the slow component. This slowing allowed detection of a previously unobserved 180-ns phase having spectral characteristics that differ from electron transfer between phylloquinones and F(X). The new kinetic phase thus reflects a different reaction that we ascribe to oxidation of F(X)(-) by the F(A/B) FeS clusters. These absorption changes partly account for the differences between the spectra associated with the two kinetic components assigned to phylloquinone reoxidation. In the mutant in which the axial ligand to ec3(A) (PsaA-Met688) was targeted, about 25% of charge separations ended in P(700)(+)A(0)(-) charge recombination; no such recombination was detected in the B-side symmetric mutant. Despite significant changes in the amplitude of the components ascribed to phylloquinone reoxidation in the two mutants, the overall nanosecond absorption changes were similar to the wild type. This suggests that these absorption changes are similar for the two different phylloquinones and that part of the differences between the decay-associated spectra of the two components reflect a contribution from different electron acceptors, i.e. from an inter-FeS cluster electron transfer.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2006 · Biochimica et Biophysica Acta
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In chlorophyll biosynthesis protochlorophyllide reductase (POR) catalyzes the light-driven reduction of protochlorophyllide (Pchlide) to chlorophyllide, providing a rare opportunity to trap and characterize catalytic intermediates at low temperatures. Moreover, the presence of a chlorophyll-like molecule allows the use of EPR, electron nuclear double resonance, and Stark spectroscopies, previously used for the analysis of photosynthetic systems, to follow catalytic events in the active site of POR. Different models involving the formation of either radical species or charge transfer complexes have been proposed for the initial photochemical step, which forms a nonfluorescent intermediate absorbing at 696 nm (A696). Our EPR data show that the concentration of the radical species formed in the initial photochemical step is not stoichiometric with conversion of substrate. Instead, a large Stark effect, indicative of charge transfer character, is associated with A696. Two components were required to fit the Stark data, providing clear evidence that charge transfer complexes are formed during the initial photochemistry. The temperature dependences of both A696 formation and NADPH oxidation are identical, and we propose that formation of the A696 state involves hydride transfer from NADPH to form a charge transfer complex. A catalytic mechanism of POR is suggested in which Pchlide absorbs a photon, creating a transient charge separation across the C-17–C-18 double bond, which promotes ultrafast hydride transfer from the pro-S face of NADPH to the C-17 of Pchlide. The resulting A696 charge transfer intermediate facilitates transfer of a proton to the C-18 of Pchlide during the subsequent first “dark” reaction.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2006 · Journal of Biological Chemistry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The oxygen regulator Fnr is part of the regulatory cascade in Bacillus subtilis for the adaptation to anaerobic growth conditions. In vivo complementation experiments revealed the essential role of only three cysteine residues (C227, C230, C235) at the C-terminus of B. subtilis Fnr for the transcriptional activation of the nitrate reductase operon (narGHJI) and nitrite extrusion protein gene (narK) promoters. UV/VIS, electron paramagnetic spin resonance (EPR) and Mössbauer spectroscopy experiments in combination with iron and sulphide content determinations using anaerobically purified recombinant B. subtilis Fnr identified the role of these three cysteine residues in the formation of one [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster per Fnr molecule. The obtained Mössbauer parameters are supportive for a [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster with three cysteine ligated iron sites and one non-cysteine ligated iron site. Gel filtration experiments revealed a stable dimeric structure for B. subtilis Fnr which is independent of the presence of the [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster. Gel mobility shift and in vitro transcription assays demonstrated the essential role of an intact [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster for promoter binding and transcriptional activation. An amino acid exchange introduced in the proposed alphaD-helix of B. subtilis Fnr (G149S) abolished its in vivo and in vitro activities indicating its importance for intramolecular signal transduction. The clear differences in the localization and coordination of the [4Fe-4S] cluster and in the organization of the oligomeric state between Escherichia coli and B. subtilis Fnr indicate differences in their mode of action.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2006 · Molecular Microbiology
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    Arwel V Hughes · Paul Rees · Peter Heathcote · Michael R Jones
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The temperature-induced denaturation of the photosynthetic reaction center from Rhodobacter sphaeroides has been studied through the changes that occur in the absorption spectrum of the bound chromophores on heating. At elevated temperatures, the characteristic absorbance bands of the bacteriochlorins bound to the polypeptides within the reaction center are lost, and are replaced by features typical of unbound bacteriochlorophyll and bacteriopheophytin. The kinetics of the spectral changes cannot be explained by a direct conversion from the functional to the denatured form of the protein, and require the presence of at least one intermediate. Possible mechanisms for the transformation via an intermediate are examined using a global analysis of the kinetic data, and the most likely mechanism is shown to involve a reversible transformation between the native state and an off-pathway intermediate, coupled to an irreversible transformation to the denatured state. The activation energies for the transformations between the three components are calculated from the effect of temperature on the individual rate constants, and the likely structural changes of the protein during the temperature-induced transformation are discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2006 · Biophysical Journal
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During porphyrin biosynthesis the oxygen-independent coproporphyrinogen III oxidase (HemN) catalyzes the oxidative decarboxylation of the propionate side chains of rings A and B of coproporphyrinogen III to form protoporphyrinogen IX. The enzyme utilizes a 5'-deoxyadenosyl radical to initiate the decarboxylation reaction, and it has been proposed that this occurs by stereo-specific abstraction of the pro-S-hydrogen atom at the beta-position of the propionate side chains leading to a substrate radical. Here we provide EPR-spectroscopic evidence for intermediacy of the latter radical by observation of an organic radical EPR signal in reduced HemN upon addition of S-adenosyl-L-methionine and the substrate coproporphyrinogen III. This signal (g(av) = 2.0029) shows a complex pattern of well resolved hyperfine splittings from at least five different hydrogen atoms. The radical was characterized using regiospecifically labeled (deuterium or 15N) coproporphyrinogen III molecules. They had been generated from a multienzyme mixture and served as efficient substrates. Reaction of HemN with coproporphyrinogen III, perdeuterated except for the methyl groups, led to the complete loss of resolved proton hyperfine splittings. Substrates in which the hydrogens at both alpha- and beta-positions, or only at the beta-positions of the propionate side chains, or those of the methylene bridges, were deuterated showed that there is coupling with hydrogens at the alpha-, beta-, and methylene bridge positions. Deuterium or 15N labeling of the pyrrole nitrogens without labeling the side chains only led to a slight sharpening of the radical signal. Together, these observations clearly identified the radical signal as substrate-derived and indicated that, upon abstraction of the pro-S-hydrogen atom at the beta-position of the propionate side chain by the 5'-deoxyadenosyl radical, a comparatively stable delocalized substrate radical intermediate is formed in the absence of electron acceptors. The observed hyperfine constants and g values show that this coproporphyrinogenyl radical is allylic and encompasses carbon atoms 3', 3, and 4.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2006 · Journal of Biological Chemistry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The decay of the light-induced spin-correlated radical pair [P700+ A1-] and the associated electron spin echo envelope modulation (ESEEM) have been studied in either thylakoid membranes, cellular membranes, or purified photosystem I prepared from the wild-type strains of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, and Spinaceae oleracea. The decay of the spin-correlated radical pair is described in the wild-type membrane by two exponential components with lifetimes of 2-4 and 16-25 micros. The proportions of the two components can be altered by preillumination of the membranes in the presence of reductant at temperatures lower than 220 K, which leads to the complete reduction of the iron-sulfur electron acceptors F(A), F(B), and F(X) and partial photoaccumulation of the reduced quinone electron acceptor A1A-. The "out-of-phase" (OOP) ESEEM attributed to the [P700+ A1-] radical pair has been investigated in the three species as a function of the preillumination treatment. Values of the dipolar (D) and the exchange (J) interactions were extracted by time-domain fitting of the OOP-ESEEM. The results obtained in the wild-type systems are compared with two site-directed mutants of C. reinhardtii [Santabarbara et al. (2005) Biochemistry 44, 2119-2128], in which the spin-polarized signal on either the PsaA- or PsaB-bound electron transfer pathway is suppressed so that the radical pair formed on each electron transfer branch could be monitored selectively. This comparison indicates that when all of the iron-sulfur centers are oxidized, only the echo modulation associated with the A branch [P700+ A1A-] radical pair is observed. The reduction of the iron-sulfur clusters and the quinone A1 by preillumination treatment induces a shift in the ESEEM frequency. In all of the systems investigated this observation can be interpreted in terms of different proportions of the signal associated with the [P700+ A1A-] and [P700+ A1B-] radical pairs, suggesting that bidirectionality of electron transfer in photosystem I is a common feature of all species rather than being confined to green algae.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2006 · Biochemistry