By using the technique of pulse radiolysis to generate O2-., it is demonstrated that Co(II) derivatives of bovine superoxide dismutase in which the copper alone and both the copper and zinc of the enzyme have been substituted by Co(II), resulting in (Co, Zn)- and (Co, Co)-proteins, are capable of catalytically dismutating O2-. with ‘turnover’ rate constants of 4.8×10(6) dm3.s-1.mol-1 and 3.1×10(6) dm3.s-1.mol-1 respectively. The activities of the proteins are independent of the pH (7.4-9.4) and are about three orders of magnitude less than that of the native (Cu, Zn)-protein. The rate constants for the initial interaction of O2-. with the Co-proteins were determined to be (1.5-1.6) X 10(9) dm3.s-1.mol-1; however, in the presence of phosphate, partial inhibition is apparent [k approximately (1.9-2.3) X 10(8) dm3.s-1.mol-1]. To account for the experimental observations, two reaction schemes are presented, involving initially either complex-formation or redox reactions between O2-. and Co(II). This is the first demonstration that substitution of a metal into the vacant copper site of (Cu, Zn)-protein results in proteins that retain superoxide dismutase activity.

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