Treatment of cobalt-substituted haemoglobin and myoglobin with ascorbate and molecular O2 (coupled oxidation) resulted in biliverdin formation from the cobalt(II) derivatives but not from the cobalt(III) derivatives. This was apparently due to the inability of ascorbate to reduce cobalt(III) haemoproteins. Isomer analysis of the biliverdins produced from coupled oxidation of cobalt(II) oxyhaemoglobin suggested that the orientation of the cobalt protoporphyrin IX in the haem pocket differed slightly from that of the haem in native haemoglobin.

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