The e.p.r. and magnetic circular dichroism (m.c.d.) spectra of bacterioferritin (BFR) extracted from Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Azotobacter vinelandii have been studied over a wide temperature range down to liquid-helium temperature. The e.p.r. spectra show the presence of low-spin Fe3+ haem with g values of 2.86, 2.32, 1.48 (P. aeruginosa) and 2.88, 2.31, 1.46 (A. vinelandii), in both the presence and absence of the BFR core. Together with evidence from the porphyrin-to-Fe3+ charge-transfer band at 2240 and 2270 nm the axial haem ligands are identified as two methionines. The low-temperature m.c.d. spectra in the region 300-1000 nm of P. aeruginosa and A. vinelandii BFR are identical with one another and unaffected by removal of the iron core. Hence it can be concluded that the presence of the iron core has no detectable effect on the electronic states and on the stereochemistry of the haem group. This was unexpected, in view of the observations by Watt, Frankel, Papaefthymiou, Spartalian & Stiefel [(1986) Biochemistry 25, 4330-4336] that the redox potential of the haem group in A. vinelandii BFR shifts from -475 mV to -225 mV on removal of the core. The e.p.r. spectra of holoBFR show a broad symmetrical derivative-shaped band centred at g = 2.0 which decreases in bandwidth as the temperature is raised. This signal is assigned to the uncompensated electron spins of the iron core.

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