CO binding kinetics to the homodimeric myoglobin (Mb) from Nassa mutabilis has been investigated between pH 1.9 and 7.0. Protonation of the proximal imidazole at low pH (less than or equal to 3.0) and the consequent cleavage of the HisF8NE2-Fe proximal bond brings about a approximately 20-fold increase of the second-order rate constant for CO binding. This process displays a pKa = 4.0 +/- 0.2, significantly higher than that observed in all other deoxygenated hemoproteins investigated up to now. Such a feature underlies a decreased energy for the HisF8NE2-Fe proximal bond in the unliganded form and it also appears supported by resonance Raman spectroscopy in the low frequency region of the Fe(II) deoxygenated hemoprotein. Further, the pH-rate profile of N. mutabilis Mb, like that of the homodimeric hemoglobin (Hb) from Scapharca inaequivalvis (Coletta, M., Boffi, A., Ascenzi, P., Brunori, M. and Chiancone, E. (1990) J. Biol. Chem. 265, 4828-4830), can be described only by assuming a concerted proton-linked transition with n = 1.8 +/- 0.1. Such a characteristic suggests, also on the basis of the amino acid sequence homology between N. mutabilis Mb and S. inaequivalvis Hb in the region forming the subunit interface, that the interaction mechanism is similar for the two homodimeric proteins, and drastically different Hb in the region forming the subunit interface, that the interaction mechanism is similar for the two homodimeric proteins, and drastically different from that operative in other hemoproteins.