Date of Award

Summer 6-18-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Aimin Liu


is a functionally diverse large group of proteins sharing a jelly roll β-barrel fold. An enzymatic member 3-hydroxyanthranilate-3,4-dioxygenase (HAO) and a non-enzymatic member pirin, which is a human nuclear metalloprotein of unknown function present in all human tissues, were selected for structural and functional studies in this dissertation work. HAO is an important enzyme for tryptophan catabolism and for 2-nitrobenzoic acid biodegradation. In this work, seven catalytic intermediate were captured in HAO single crystals, enabling for the first time a nearly complete structural snapshot viewing of the entire molecular oxygen activation and insertion mechanism in an iron- and O2-depedent enzyme. The rapid catalytic turnover rate was found achieved in large part by protein dynamics that facilitates O2 binding to the catalytic iron, which is bound to the enzyme by a facile 2-His-1-carboxylate ligand motif. An iron storage and chaperon mechanism was also discovered in the bacterial source of this enzyme, which led to a proposed novel biological function of a mononuclear iron-sulfur center. Although human pirin protein shares the same structural fold with HAO, its iron ion is coordinated by a 3-His-1-carboxylate ligand motif. Pirin belongs to a subset of proteins whose members are playing regulatory functions in the superfamily. In this work, pirin is shown to act as a redox sensor for the NF-κB transcription factor, a critical mediator of intracellular signaling that has been linked to cellular responses to pro-inflammatory signals which controls the expression of a vast array of genes involved in immune and stress responses.