Human serum albumin (HSA), the most prominent protein in blood plasma, is able to bind a wide range of endogenous and exogenous compounds. Among the endogenous ligands, HSA is a significant transporter of heme, the heme-HSA complex being present in blood plasma. Drug binding to heme-HSA affects allosterically the heme affinity for HSA and vice versa. Heme-HSA, heme, and their complexes with ibuprofen have been characterized by electronic absorption, resonance Raman, and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy. Comparison of the results for the heme and heme-HSA systems has provided insight into the structural consequences on the heme pocket of ibuprofen binding. The pentacoordinate tyrosine-bound heme coordination of heme-HSA, observed in the absence of ibuprofen, becomes hexacoordinate low spin upon ibuprofen binding, and heme dissociates at increasing drug levels. The electronic absorption spectrum and ν(Fe-CO)/ν(CO) vibrational frequencies of the CO-heme-HSA-ibuprofen complex, together with the observation of a Fe-His Raman mode at 218 cm-1 upon photolysis of the CO complex and the low spin EPR g values indicate that a His residue is one of the low spin axial ligands, the sixth ligand probably being Tyr161. The only His residue in the vicinity of the heme Fe atom is His146, 9 Å distant in the absence of the drug. This indicates that drug binding to heme-HSA results in a significant rearrangement of the heme pocket, implying that the conformational adaptability of HSA involves more than the immediate vicinity of the drug binding site. As a whole, the present spectroscopic investigation supports the notion that HSA could be considered as the prototype of monomeric allosteric proteins.
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