The study of heme is important to our understanding of cellular bioenergetics, especially in cancer cells. The function of heme as a prosthetic group in proteins such as cytochromes is now well-documented. Less is known, however, about its role as a regulator of metabolic and energetic pathways. This is due in part to some inherent difficulties in studying heme. Due to its slightly amphiphilic nature, heme is a “sticky” molecule which can easily bind non-specifically to proteins. In addition, heme tends to dimerize, oxidize, and aggregate in purely aqueous solutions; therefore, there are constraints on buffer composition and concentrations. Despite these difficulties, our knowledge of heme’s regulatory role continues to grow. This review sums up the latest methods used to study reversible heme binding. Heme-regulated proteins will also be reviewed, as well as a system for imaging the cellular localization of heme.
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