Haemocyanins are multimeric oxygen transport proteins, which bind oxygen to type 3 copper sites. Arthropod haemocyanins contain 75-kDa subunits, whereas molluscan haemocyanins contain 350–400-kDa subunits comprising seven or eight different 50 kDa FUs (functional units) designated FU-a to FU-h, each with an active site. FU-h possesses a tail of 100 amino acids not present in the other FUs. In the present study we show by X-ray crystallography that in FU-h of KLH1 (keyhole-limpet-haemocyanin isoform 1) the structure of the tail domain is cupredoxin-like but contains no copper. The copper-free domain 3 in arthropod haemocyanin subunits has also recently been reinterpreted as being cupredoxin-like. We propose that the cupredoxin-like domain in both haemocyanin types once served to upload copper to the active site of the oxygen-binding domain.
In the present study, we show the isolation and characterization of the protein haemoporin, which constitutes the second most abundant protein fraction in the haemolymph of the marine gastropod Aplysia californica . Although Aplysia is commonly used to investigate the molecular basis of learning, not much is known about the proteins in its haemolymph, which is in contact with the neurons owing to the open circulatory system of molluscs. In the native state, haemoporin is a macromolecular complex forming a cylinder with a central solvent-filled pore. The native complex most probably is a homopentamer made up from 70 kDa subunits with a molecular mass of 360 kDa and a sedimentation coefficient of 11.7 S. Prediction of the secondary structure by CD spectroscopy revealed that haemoporin contains 36% α-helices and 19% β-strands. An absorption band in the 300–400 nm region indicates that haemoporin probably contains a bound substance. Haemoporin also contains a below average amount of tryptophan as evident from absorption and fluorescence spectra. The specific absorption coefficient at 280 nm ( a 280 nm, 1 mg/ml ) varies between 0.42 and 0.59 l·g −1 ·cm −1 depending on the method. The function of the protein is not yet known, but there are structural parallels between haemoporin and a pore protein reported previously in the haemolymph of another marine gastropod Megathura crenulata . The alanine-rich N-terminal sequence (AAVPEAAAEATAEAAPVSEF) is unique among protein sequences and indicates an α-helical structure. Whereas one side of the helix is hydrophobic and faces the interior of the protein, the other side contains a glutamic cluster, which may form the channel of the pore in the quaternary structure. Thus both proteins might belong to a new class of haemolymph proteins present in the haemolymph of marine gastropods.
Tyrosinases, which are widely distributed among animals, plants and fungi, are involved in many biologically essential functions, including pigmentation, sclerotization, primary immune response and host defence. In the present study, we present a structural and physicochemical characterization of two new tyrosinases from the crustaceans Palinurus elephas (European spiny lobster) and Astacus leptodactylus (freshwater crayfish). In vivo , the purified crustacean tyrosinases occur as hexamers composed of one subunit type with a molecular mass of approx. 71kDa. The tyrosinase hexamers appear to be similar to the haemocyanins, based on electron microscopy. Thus a careful purification protocol was developed to discriminate clearly between tyrosinases and the closely related haemocyanins. The physicochemical properties of haemocyanins and tyrosinases are different with respect to electronegativity and hydrophobicity. The hexameric nature of arthropod tyrosinases suggests that these proteins were the ideal predecessors from which to develop the oxygen-carrier protein haemocyanin, with its allosteric and co-operative properties, later on.