Cytochromes P450: a success story
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Genome Biology 2000, 1:reviews3003-reviews3003.9 doi:10.1186/gb-2000-1-6-reviews3003Published: 8 December 2000
Cytochrome P450 proteins, named for the absorption band at 450 nm of their carbon-monoxide-bound form, are one of the largest superfamilies of enzyme proteins. The P450 genes (also called CYP) are found in the genomes of virtually all organisms, but their number has exploded in plants. Their amino-acid sequences are extremely diverse, with levels of identity as low as 16% in some cases, but their structural fold has remained the same throughout evolution. P450s are heme-thiolate proteins; their most conserved structural features are related to heme binding and common catalytic properties, the major feature being a completely conserved cysteine serving as fifth (axial) ligand to the heme iron. Canonical P450s use electrons from NAD(P)H to catalyze activation of molecular oxygen, leading to regiospecific and stereospecific oxidative attack of a plethora of substrates. The reactions carried out by P450s, though often hydroxylation, can be extremely diverse and sometimes surprising. They contribute to vital processes such as carbon source assimilation, biosynthesis of hormones and of structural components of living organisms, and also carcinogenesis and degradation of xenobiotics. In plants, chemical defense seems to be a major reason for P450 diversification. In prokaryotes, P450s are soluble proteins. In eukaryotes, they are usually bound to the endoplasmic reticulum or inner mitochondrial membranes. The electron carrier proteins used for conveying reducing equivalents from NAD(P)H differ with subcellular localization. P450 enzymes catalyze many reactions that are important in drug metabolism or that have practical applications in industry; their economic impact is therefore considerable.