Heme is an iron-containing porphyrin which acts as a prosthetic group in several enzymes involved in disparate functions, such as respiration and H2O2-scavenging. Escherichia coli is able to produce heme endogenously since it contains all the enzymes involved in the nine-step biosynthesis pathway, which in absence of stress and in iron-replete media proceeds unabated. However, we recently showed that two steps are affected by H2O2 stress (Mancini and Imlay, 2015). To compensate, two enzymes, namely the ferrochelatase (HemH) and an isozyme of coproporphyrinogen III oxidase (HemF), are activated by the H2O2-responsive regulator OxyR. Genetic mutations that block either adaptation cause the intracellular accumulation of protoporphyrin IX and coproporphyrinogen III, the substrates of HemH and HemF, respectively. We here describe a method used to extract and quantify protoporphyrin IX and coproporphyrin III, the product of the spontaneous oxidation of coproporphyrinogen III.
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