The interaction of cytochromes (heme proteins) with mineral surfaces is important from an environmental perspective (e.g. heavy metal remediation and reductive dehalogenation reactions), for designing biosensors and bioanalytical systems, and for emerging photovoltaic applications. In addition, the cytochrome studied here shares properties with some cytochromes from Fe-reducing bacteria and its general behavior sheds light on how other cytochromes might behave during Fe(III) reduction. The objectives of this study were to characterize the direct electrochemistry and sorption mechanism of horse heart ferricytochrome c (a mitochondrial cytochrome referred to as Hcc) on hematite surfaces as a function of pH, time of sorption and ionic strength. Hcc sorption on hematite mainly occurs between pH 8 and 10, the pH range in which hematite surfaces and Hcc are oppositely charged. Calculated net attractive forces correspond closely with the pH range of peak sorption, suggesting that sorption is mainly electrostatically controlled. Hcc sorption with ionic strength is consistent with this conclusion. The pH-dependent conformation of Hcc sorbed on hematite appears to be different from that in solution as indicated by UV- visible spectroscopy and its more negative reduction potential compared to native Hcc. Sorption kinetics were rapid and pH-independent across the pH range 3–10 with slow conformational changes occurring at >60 h. Our results suggest that the electrostatic attraction of the cytochrome towards the surface orient the cytochrome for favorable electron transfer between the heme group of the cytochrome and hematite.

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