Mononuclear copper monooxygenases peptidylglycine monooxygenase (PHM) and dopamine β-monooxygenase (DBM) catalyze the hydroxylation of high energy C-H bonds utilizing a pair of chemically distinct copper sites (CuH and CuM) separated by 11 Å. In earlier work, we constructed single-site PHM variants that were designed to allow the study of the M- and H-centers independently in order to place their reactivity sequentially along the catalytic pathway. More recent crystallographic studies suggest that these single-site variants may not be truly representative of the individual active sites. In this work, we describe an alternative approach that uses a rational design to construct an artificial PHM model in a small metallochaperone scaffold. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we constructed variants that provide a His2Met copper-binding ligand set that mimics the M-center of PHM. The results show that the model accurately reproduces the chemical and spectroscopic properties of the M-center, including details of the methionine coordination, and the properties of Cu(I) and Cu(II) states in the presence of endogenous ligands such as CO and azide. The rate of reduction of the Cu(II) form of the model by the chromophoric reductant N,N′-dimethyl phenylenediamine (DMPD) has been compared with that of the PHM M-center, and the reaction chemistry of the Cu(I) forms with molecular oxygen has also been explored, revealing an unusually low reactivity toward molecular oxygen. This latter finding emphasizes the importance of substrate triggering of oxygen reactivity and implies that the His2Met ligand set, while necessary, is insufficient on its own to activate oxygen in these enzyme systems.
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