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Coral allene oxide synthase (AOS), a hemoprotein with weak sequence homology to catalase, is the N-terminal domain of a naturally occurring fusion protein with an 8R-lipoxygenase. AOS converts 8R-hydroperoxyeicosatetraenoic acid to the corresponding allene oxide. The UV--visible absorption and magnetic circular dichroism spectra of ferric AOS and of its cyanide and azide complexes, and the electron paramagnetic resonance spectra of native AOS (high-spin, g = 6.56, 5.22, 2.00) and of its cyanide adduct (low-spin, g = 2.86, 2.24, 1.60) closely resemble the corresponding spectra of bovine liver catalase (BLC). These results provide strong evidence for tyrosinate ligation to the heme iron of AOS as has been established for catalases. On the other hand, the positive circular dichroism bands in the Soret region for all three derivatives of ferric AOS are almost the mirror image of those in catalase. In addition, the cyanide affinity of native AOS (K(d) = 10 mM at pH 7) is about 3 orders of magnitude lower than that of BLC. Thus, while these results conclusively support a common tyrosinate-ligated heme in AOS as in catalase, significant differences exist in the interaction between their respective heme prosthetic groups and protein environments, and in the access of small molecules to the heme iron.