While frataxin association to other proteins has been extensively characterized up to the structural level, much less is known about the putative capacity of frataxin to interact with functionally related metabolites. Current knowledge about frataxin's capacity to coordinate metal ions is limited to iron (II and III). Here, the authors used NMR spectroscopy, Molecular Dynamics, and Docking approaches to demonstrate new roles of frataxin and showed that that frataxin also binds Zn2+ in a structurally similar way to Fe2+, but with lower affinity. Both Fe2+-loaded and Zn2+-loaded frataxins specifically associate to protoporphyrin IX with micromolar affinity, while apo-frataxin does not bind to the porphyrin. Protoporphyrin IX association to metal-loaded frataxin shares the binding epitope with ferrochelatase. These findings expand the plethora of relevant molecular targets for frataxin and may help to elucidate the yet unknown different roles that this protein exerts in iron regulation and metabolism.
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