Stellacyanin is a mucoprotein of molecular weight approximately 20,000 containing one copper atom in a blue or type I site. The metal ion can exist in both the Cu(II) and Cu(I) redox states. The metal binding site in plastocyanin, another blue copper protein, contains one cysteinyl, one methionyl, and two imidazoyl residues (Colman et al. 1978. Nature [Lond.]. 272:319–324.), but an exactly analogous site cannot exist in stellacyanin as it lacks methionine. The copper coordination in stellacyanin has been studied by x-ray edge absorption and extended x-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) analysis. A new, very conservative data analysis procedure has been introduced, which suggests that the there are two nitrogen atoms in the first coordination shell of the oxidized [Cu(II)] protein and one in the reduced [Cu(I)] protein; these N atoms have normal Cu--N distances: 1.95–2.05 A. In both redox states there are either one or two sulfur atoms coordinating the copper, the exact number being indeterminable from the present data. In the oxidized state the Cu--S distance is intermediate between the short bond found in plastocyanin and those found in near tetragonal copper model compounds. Above -140 degree C, radiation damage of the protein occurs. At room temperature the oxidized proteins is modified in the x-ray beam at a rate of 0.25%/s.
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