Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Biochemistry and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Differential roles of tryptophan residues in conformational stability of Porphyromonas gingivalis HmuY hemophore

Marcin Bielecki, Halina Wójtowicz and Teresa Olczak*

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biotechnology, University of Wroclaw, F. Joliot-Curie 14A St., 50-383 Wroclaw, Poland

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Biochemistry 2014, 15:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2091-15-2

Published: 10 February 2014



We have previously shown that the P. gingivalis HmuY hemophore-like protein binds heme and scavenges heme from host hemoproteins to further deliver it to the cognate heme receptor HmuR. The aim of this study was to characterize structural features of HmuY variants in the presence and absence of heme with respect to roles of tryptophan residues in conformational stability.


HmuY possesses tryptophan residues at positions 51 and 73, which are conserved in HmuY homologs present in a variety of bacteria, and a tryptophan residue at position 161, which has been found only in HmuY identified in P. gingivalis strains. We expressed and purified the wildtype HmuY and its protein variants with single tryptophan residues replaced by alanine or tyrosine residues. All HmuY variants were subjected to thermal denaturation and fluorescence spectroscopy analyses. Replacement of the most buried W161 only moderately affects protein stability. The most profound effect of the lack of a large hydrophobic side chain in respect to thermal stability is observed for W73. Also replacement of the W51 exposed on the surface results in the greatest loss of protein stability and even the large aromatic side chain of a tyrosine residue has little potential to substitute this tryptophan residue. Heme binding leads to different exposure of the tryptophan residue at position 51 to the surface of the protein. Differences in structural stability of HmuY variants suggest the change of the tertiary structure of the protein upon heme binding.


Here we demonstrate differential roles of tryptophan residues in the protein conformational stability. We also propose different conformations of apo- and holoHmuY caused by tertiary changes which allow heme binding to the protein.

Heme; Hemophore; HmuY; Porphyromonas gingivalis; Protein unfolding