X-ray spectroscopy was used to provide further information on the structure of the molybdenum centre of xanthine oxidase. Earlier work was confirmed and two states of the enzyme, not reported on by previous workers, were studied. One of these was the complex of the enzyme with pyridine-3-carboxaldehyde, in which most of the metal is in the Mo(V) state, giving the e.p.r. signal known as Inhibited. The other was the complex with the inhibitor alloxanthine, with the metal as Mo(IV). For both complexes clear evidence was obtained that an oxo ligand of molybdenum was present, but not a sulphido ligand. This information complements structural information on these complexes already available from e.p.r. spectroscopy, and has permitted us to revise and refine the structures previously proposed. The mechanism of action of the enzyme is discussed in the light of the present findings on the persistence of the oxo group in the reduced enzyme complexes, as well as of related evidence [George & Bray (1988) Biochemistry 27, 3603-3609] for an oxo group in the catalytic intermediate that gives the Mo(V) e.p.r. signal known as Very Rapid.

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