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1.  Specificity and Reactivity in Menaquinone Biosynthesis: The Structure of Escherichia coli MenD (2-Succinyl-5-Enolpyruvyl-6-Hydroxy-3-Cyclohexadiene-1-Carboxylate Synthase) 
Journal of molecular biology  2008;384(5):1353-1368.
The thiamine diphosphate (ThDP) and metal-ion-dependent enzyme 2-succinyl-5-enolpyruvyl-6-hydroxy-3-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate synthase, or MenD, catalyze the Stetter-like conjugate addition of α-ketoglutarate with isochorismate to release 2-succinyl-5-enolpyruvyl-6-hydroxy-3-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate and carbon dioxide. This reaction represents the first committed step for biosynthesis of menaquinone, or vitamin K2, a key cofactor for electron transport in bacteria and a metabolite for posttranslational modification of proteins in mammals. The medium-resolution structure of MenD from Escherichia coli (EcMenD) in complex with its cofactor and Mn2+ has been determined in two related hexagonal crystal forms. The subunit displays the typical three-domain structure observed for ThDP-dependent enzymes in which two of the domains bind and force the cofactor into a configuration that supports formation of a reactive ylide. The structures reveal a stable dimer-of-dimers association in agreement with gel filtration and analytical ultracentrifugation studies and confirm the classification of MenD in the pyruvate oxidase family of ThDP-dependent enzymes. The active site, created by contributions from a pair of subunits, is highly basic with a pronounced hydrophobic patch. These features, formed by highly conserved amino acids, match well to the chemical properties of the substrates. A model of the covalent intermediate formed after reaction with the first substrate α-ketoglutarate and with the second substrate isochorismate positioned to accept nucleophilic attack has been prepared. This, in addition to structural and sequence comparisons with putative MenD orthologues, provides insight into the specificity and reactivity of MenD and allows a two-stage reaction mechanism to be proposed.
PMCID: PMC3656419  PMID: 18983854
crystal structure; enzyme mechanism; menaquinone biosynthesis; thiamine diphosphate cofactor
2.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of (1R,6R)-2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate (SHCHC) synthase (MenD) from Escherichia coli  
Single crystals of the holoenzyme (1R,6R)-2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate synthase with ThDP and Mn2+ as cofactors were obtained by the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method with 35% ethylene glycol as precipitant. Apoenzyme crystals were obtained by sitting-drop vapour diffusion with 70% MPD.
(1R,6R)-2-Succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate (SHCHC) synthase, also called MenD, participates in the menaquinone (vitamin K2) biosynthetic pathway. The enzyme is a part of the superfamily of ThDP-dependent enzymes; however, it is the only enzyme known to catalyze a Stetter-like 1,4-addition of a ThDP adduct to the β-carbon of an unsaturated carboxylate. This is the first reported crystallization of the apoenzyme and holoenzyme forms of MenD. The apoenzyme crystals were obtained by sitting-drop vapour diffusion with 70% MPD. However, the crystals were too small to collect diffraction data and a search for better conditions was not successful. Single crystals of the holoenzyme with ThDP and Mn2+ as cofactors were obtained by the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method with 35% ethylene glycol as precipitant. Diffraction data were collected on a cryocooled crystal to a resolution of 2.0 Å at BioCARS, Advanced Photon Source (APS), Chicago, IL, USA. The crystal was found to belong to space group P212121, with unit-cell parameters a = 106.86, b = 143.06, c = 156.85 Å, α = β = γ = 90°.
PMCID: PMC1952307  PMID: 16511076
SHCHC synthase; MenD; ThDP-dependent enzymes
3.  Sequence organization and regulation of the Bacillus subtilis menBE operon. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(15):5063-5071.
Menaquinone (MK) plays a central role in the respiratory chain of Bacillus subtilis. The biosynthesis of MK requires the formation of a naphthoquinone ring via a series of specific reactions branching from the shikimate pathway. "Early" MK-specific reactions catalyze the formation of o-succinylbenzoate (OSB) from isochorismate, and "late" reactions convert OSB to dihydroxynaphthoate, by utilizing an OSB-coenzyme A intermediate. We have cloned and sequenced the B. subtilis menE and menB genes encoding, respectively, OSB-coenzyme A synthase and dihydroxynaphthoate synthase. The MenB open reading frame encodes a potential polypeptide of 261 amino acid residues with a predicted size of 28.5 kDa, while the MenE open reading frame could encode a 24.4-kDa polypeptide of 220 amino acid residues. Probable promoter sequences were identified by high-resolution primer extension assays. Organization of these genes and regulatory regions was found to be menBp menB menEp menE. Expression of menE was dependent on both menEp and menBp, indicating an operonlike organization. A region of dyad symmetry capable of forming a stable RNA secondary structure was found between menB and menE. Culture cycle-dependent expression of menB and menE was measured by steady-state transcript accumulation. For both genes, maximal accumulation was found to occur within an hour after the end of exponential growth. The menBp and menEp promoters have sequences compatible with recognition by the major vegetative form of B. subtilis RNA polymerase, E sigma A. Both promoter regions also were found to contain homologies to a sequence motif previously identified in the menCDp region and in promoters for several B. subtilis tricarboxylic acid cycle genes.
PMCID: PMC206322  PMID: 1629163
4.  Menaquinone (vitamin K2) biosynthesis: evidence that the Escherichia coli menD gene encodes both 2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylic acid synthase and alpha-ketoglutarate decarboxylase activities. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(24):8111-8118.
The formation of 2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylic acid (SHCHC), the first identified intermediate in the menaquinone biosynthetic pathway, requires two reactions. They are the decarboxylation of alpha-ketoglutarate by an alpha-ketoglutarate decarboxylase, which results in the formation of succinic semialdehyde-thiamine PPi (TPP) anion, and the addition of the succinic semialdehyde-TPP anion to isochorismate carried out by the enzyme SHCHC synthase. Evidence is provided to support the conclusion that both enzymatic activities are encoded by an extended menD gene which is capable of generating a bifunctional 69-kDa protein. Consistent with the requirement for TPP in the decarboxylation of alpha-ketoglutarate, the translated amino acid sequence contains the characteristic TPP-binding motif present in all well-characterized TPP-requiring enzymes.
PMCID: PMC207550  PMID: 1459959
5.  Crystal Structure of Uroporphyrinogen Decarboxylase from Bacillus subtilis▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;189(9):3573-3580.
Uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase (UROD) is a branch point enzyme in the biosynthesis of the tetrapyrroles. It catalyzes the decarboxylation of four acetate groups of uroporphyrinogen III to yield coproporphyrinogen III, leading to heme and chlorophyll biosynthesis. UROD is a special type of nonoxidative decarboxylase, since no cofactor is essential for catalysis. In this work, the first crystal structure of a bacterial UROD, Bacillus subtilis UROD (URODBs), has been determined at a 2.3 Å resolution. The biological unit of URODBs was determined by dynamic light scattering measurements to be a homodimer in solution. There are four molecules in the crystallographic asymmetric unit, corresponding to two homodimers. Structural comparison of URODBs with eukaryotic URODs reveals a variation of two loops, which possibly affect the binding of substrates and release of products. Structural comparison with the human UROD-coproporphyrinogen III complex discloses a similar active cleft, with five invariant polar residues (Arg29, Arg33, Asp78, Tyr154, and His322) and three invariant hydrophobic residues (Ile79, Phe144, and Phe207), in URODBs. Among them, Asp78 may interact with the pyrrole NH groups of the substrate, and Arg29 is a candidate for positioning the acetate groups of the substrate. Both residues may also play catalytic roles.
PMCID: PMC1855892  PMID: 17122346
6.  Thiamine pyrophosphate requirement for o-succinylbenzoic acid synthesis in Escherichia coli and evidence for an intermediate. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1983;153(2):739-746.
Cell-free extracts of various strains of Escherichia coli synthesize the menaquinone biosynthetic intermediate o-succinylbenzoic acid (OSB) when supplied with chorismic acid, 2-ketoglutaric acid, and thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP). To assay for OSB synthesis, 2-[U-14C]ketoglutaric acid was used as substrate, and the synthesized OSB was examined by radiogas chromatography (as the dimethyl ester). [U-14C]Shikimic acid also gave rise to radioactive OSB if the cofactors necessary for enzymatic conversion to chorismic acid were added. Use of 2-[1-14C]ketoglutaric acid does not give rise to labeled OSB. In the absence of TPP during the incubations, OSB synthesis was much reduced; these observations are consistent with the proposed role for the succinic semialdehyde-TPP anion as the reagent adding to chorismic acid. Extracts of cells from menC and menD mutants did not form OSB separately, but did so in combination. There was evidence for formation of a product, X, by extracts of a menC mutant incubated with chorismic acid, TPP, and 2-ketoglutaric acid; X was converted to OSB by extracts of a menD mutant. It appears that the intermediate, X, is formed by one gene product and converted to OSB by the second gene product.
PMCID: PMC221692  PMID: 6337125
7.  A standard numbering scheme for thiamine diphosphate-dependent decarboxylases 
BMC Biochemistry  2012;13:24.
Standard numbering schemes for families of homologous proteins allow for the unambiguous identification of functionally and structurally relevant residues, to communicate results on mutations, and to systematically analyse sequence-function relationships in protein families. Standard numbering schemes have been successfully implemented for several protein families, including lactamases and antibodies, whereas a numbering scheme for the structural family of thiamine-diphosphate (ThDP) -dependent decarboxylases, a large subfamily of the class of ThDP-dependent enzymes encompassing pyruvate-, benzoylformate-, 2-oxo acid-, indolpyruvate- and phenylpyruvate decarboxylases, benzaldehyde lyase, acetohydroxyacid synthases and 2-succinyl-5-enolpyruvyl-6-hydroxy-3-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate synthase (MenD) is still missing.
Despite a high structural similarity between the members of the ThDP-dependent decarboxylases, their sequences are diverse and make a pairwise sequence comparison of protein family members difficult.
We developed and validated a standard numbering scheme for the family of ThDP-dependent decarboxylases. A profile hidden Markov model (HMM) was created using a set of representative sequences from the family of ThDP-dependent decarboxylases. The pyruvate decarboxylase from S. cerevisiae (PDB: 2VK8) was chosen as a reference because it is a well characterized enzyme. The crystal structure with the PDB identifier 2VK8 encompasses the structure of the ScPDC mutant E477Q, the cofactors ThDP and Mg2+ as well as the substrate analogue (2S)-2-hydroxypropanoic acid. The absolute numbering of this reference sequence was transferred to all members of the ThDP-dependent decarboxylase protein family. Subsequently, the numbering scheme was integrated into the already established Thiamine-diphosphate dependent Enzyme Engineering Database (TEED) and was used to systematically analyze functionally and structurally relevant positions in the superfamily of ThDP-dependent decarboxylases.
The numbering scheme serves as a tool for the reliable sequence alignment of ThDP-dependent decarboxylases and the unambiguous identification and communication of corresponding positions. Thus, it is the basis for the systematic and automated analysis of sequence-encoded properties such as structural and functional relevance of amino acid positions, because the analysis of conserved positions, the identification of correlated mutations and the determination of subfamily specific amino acid distributions depend on reliable multisequence alignments and the unambiguous identification of the alignment columns. The method is reliable and robust and can easily be adapted to further protein families.
PMCID: PMC3534367  PMID: 23157214
8.  Exploiting the high-resolution crystal structure of Staphylococcus aureus MenH to gain insight into enzyme activity 
MenH (2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate synthase) is a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of menaquinone, catalyzing an unusual 2,5-elimination of pyruvate from 2-succinyl-5-enolpyruvyl-6-hydroxy-3-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate.
The crystal structure of Staphylococcus aureus MenH has been determined at 2 Å resolution. In the absence of a complex to inform on aspects of specificity a model of the enzyme-substrate complex has been used in conjunction with previously published kinetic analyses, site-directed mutagenesis studies and comparisons with orthologues to investigate the structure and reactivity of MenH.
The overall basic active site displays pronounced hydrophobic character on one side and these properties complement those of the substrate. A complex network of hydrogen bonds involving well-ordered water molecules serves to position key residues participating in the recognition of substrate and subsequent catalysis. We propose a proton shuttle mechanism, reliant on a catalytic triad consisting of Ser89, Asp216 and His243. The reaction is initiated by proton abstraction from the substrate by an activated Ser89. The propensity to form a conjugated system provides the driving force for pyruvate elimination. During the elimination, a methylene group is converted to a methyl and we judge it likely that His243 provides a proton, previously acquired from Ser89 for that reduction. A conformational change of the protonated His243 may be encouraged by the presence of an anionic intermediate in the active site.
PMCID: PMC3097144  PMID: 21513522
9.  Structure of isochorismate synthase in complex with magnesium 
The structure of the menaquinone-specific isochorismate synthase (MenF) from Escherichia coli has been refined at a resolution of 2.0 Å in complex with magnesium. The magnesium-bound structure has a well defined and organized active site which better represents the active conformation of the enzyme than the currently available structure.
The electron carrier menaquinone is one of many important bacterial metabolites that are derived from the key intermediate chorismic acid. MenF, the first enzyme in the menaquinone pathway, catalyzes the isomerization of chorismate to isochorismate. Here, an improved structure of MenF in a new crystal form is presented. The structure, solved at 2.0 Å resolution in complex with magnesium, reveals a well defined closed active site. Existing evidence suggests that the mechanism of the reaction catalyzed by MenF involves nucleophilic attack of a water molecule on the chorismate ring. The structure reveals a well defined water molecule located in an appropriate position for activation by Lys190 and attack on the substrate.
PMCID: PMC2467529  PMID: 18453696
chorismate; isochorismate; menaquinone
10.  Mechanisms of Activation of Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxykinase from Escherichia coli by Ca2+ and of Desensitization by Trypsin 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(14):4233-4242.
The 1.8-Å resolution structure of the ATP-Mg2+-Ca2+-pyruvate quinary complex of Escherichia coli phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PCK) is isomorphous to the published complex ATP-Mg2+-Mn2+-pyruvate-PCK, except for the Ca2+ and Mn2+ binding sites. Ca2+ was formerly implicated as a possible allosteric regulator of PCK, binding at the active site and at a surface activating site (Glu508 and Glu511). This report found that Ca2+ bound only at the active site, indicating that there is likely no surface allosteric site. 45Ca2+ bound to PCK with a Kd of 85 μM and n of 0.92. Glu508Gln Glu511Gln mutant PCK had normal activation by Ca2+. Separate roles of Mg2+, which binds the nucleotide, and Ca2+, which bridges the nucleotide and the anionic substrate, are implied, and the catalytic mechanism of PCK is better explained by studies of the Ca2+-bound structure. Partial trypsin digestion abolishes Ca2+ activation (desensitizes PCK). N-terminal sequencing identified sensitive sites, i.e., Arg2 and Arg396. Arg2Ser, Arg396Ser, and Arg2Ser Arg396Ser (double mutant) PCKs altered the kinetics of desensitization. C-terminal residues 397 to 540 were removed by trypsin when wild-type PCK was completely desensitized. Phe409 and Phe413 interact with residues in the Ca2+ binding site, probably stabilizing the C terminus. Phe409Ala, ΔPhe409, Phe413Ala, Δ397-521 (deletion of residues 397 to 521), Arg396(TAA) (stop codon), and Asp269Glu (Ca2+ site) mutations failed to desensitize PCK and, with the exception of Phe409Ala, appeared to have defects in the synthesis or assembly of PCK, suggesting that the structure of the C-terminal domain is important in these processes.
PMCID: PMC164867  PMID: 12837799
11.  Arginine Residues in the Active Site of Human Phenol Sulfotransferase (SULT1A1)* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2003;278(38):36358-36364.
Cytosolic sulfotransferases (STs) catalyze the sulfation of hydroxyl containing compounds. Human phenol sulfotransferase (SULT1A1) is the major human ST that catalyzes the sulfation of simple phenols. Because of its broad substrate specificity and lack of endogenous substrates, the biological function of SULT1A1 is believed to be an important detoxification enzyme. In this report, amino acid modification, computer structure modeling, and site-directed mutagenesis were used for studies of Arg residues in the active site of SULT1A1. The Arg-specific modification reagent, 2,3-butanedione, inactivated SULT1A1 in an efficient, time- and concentration-dependent manner, suggesting Arg residues play an important role in the catalytic activity of SULT1A1. According to the computer model, Arg78, Arg130, and Arg257 may be important for SULT1A1 catalytic activity. Site-directed mutagenesis results demonstrated that the positive charge on Arg78 is not critical for SULT1A1 because R78A is still active. In contrast, a negative charge at this position, R78E, completely inactivated SULT1A1. Arg78 is in close proximity to the site of sulfuryl group transfer. Arg257 is located very close to the 3′-phosphate in adenosine 3′-phosphate 5′-phosphosulfate (PAPS). Site-directed mutagenesis demonstrated that Arg257 is critical for SULT1A1: both R257A and R257E are inactive. Although Arg130 is also located very close to the 3′-phosphate of PAPS, R130A and R130E are still active, suggesting that Arg130 is not a critical residue for the catalytic activity of SULT1A1. Computer modeling suggests that the ionic interaction between the positive charge on Arg257, and the negative charge on 3′-phosphate is the primary force stabilizing the specific binding of PAPS.
PMCID: PMC3118444  PMID: 12867416
12.  Menaquinone (vitamin K2) biosynthesis: overexpression, purification, and characterization of a new isochorismate synthase from Escherichia coli. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(10):3133-3138.
The first committed step in the biosynthesis of menaquinone (vitamin K2) is the conversion of chorismate to isochorismate, which is mediated by an isochorismate synthase encoded by the menF gene. This isochorismate synthase (MenF) is distinct from the entC-encoded isochorismate synthase (EntC) involved in enterobactin biosynthesis. MenF has been overexpressed under the influence of the T7 promoter and purified to homogeneity. The purified protein was found to have a molecular mass of 98 kDa as determined by gel filtration column chromatography on Sephacryl S-200. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed a molecular mass of 48 kDa. Thus, the enzyme is a homodimer. The purified enzyme showed a pH optimum of 7.5 to 8.0 and a temperature optimum of 37 degrees C. The enzyme carries out the irreversible conversion of chorismate to isochorismate in the presence of Mg2+. The enzyme was found to have a Km of 195 +/- 23 microM and a k(cat) of 80 min(-1). In the presence of 30 mM beta-mercaptoethanol (BME), the k(cat) increased to 176 min(-1). The reducing agents BME and dithiothreitol stimulated the enzymatic activity more than twofold. Treatment of the enzyme with the cysteine-specific modifying reagent N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) resulted in the complete loss of activity. Preincubation of the enzyme with the substrate, chorismate, before NEM treatment resulted in complete protection of the enzyme from inactivation.
PMCID: PMC179089  PMID: 9150206
13.  Crystal Structures of E. coli Native MenH and Two Active Site Mutants 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61325.
Recent revision of the biosynthetic pathway for menaquinone has led to the discovery of a previously unrecognized enzyme 2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate synthase, also known as MenH. This enzyme has an α/β hydrolase fold with a catalytic triad comprising Ser86, His232, and Asp210. Mutational studies identified a number of conserved residues of importance to activity, and modeling further implicated the side chains of Tyr85 and Trp147 in formation of a non-standard oxyanion hole. We have solved the structure of E. coli MenH (EcMenH) at 2.75 Å resolution, together with the structures of the active site mutant proteins Tyr85Phe and Arg124Ala, both at 2.5 Å resolution. EcMenH has the predicted α/β hydrolase fold with its core α/β domain capped by a helical lid. The active site, a long groove beneath the cap, contains a number of conserved basic residues and is found to bind exogeneous anions, modeled as sulfate and chloride, in all three crystal structures. Docking studies with the MenH substrate and a transition state model indicate that the bound anions mark the binding sites for anionic groups on the substrate. The docking studies, and careful consideration of the active site geometry, further suggest that the oxyanion hole is of a conventional nature, involving peptide NH groups, rather than the proposed site involving Tyr85 and Trp147. This is in accord with conclusions from the structure of S. aureus MenH. Comparisons with the latter do, however, indicate differences in the periphery of the active site that could be of relevance to selective inhibition of MenH enzymes.
PMCID: PMC3630204  PMID: 23637813
14.  Biosynthesis of o-succinylbenzoic acid in Bacillus subtilis: identification of menD mutants and evidence against the involvement of the alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase complex. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1994;176(9):2648-2653.
The biosynthesis of o-succinylbenzoic acid (OSB), the first aromatic intermediate involved in the biosynthesis of menaquinone (vitamin K2) is demonstrated for the first time in the gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Cell extracts were found to contain isochorismate synthase, 2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylic acid (SHCHC) synthase-alpha-ketoglutarate decarboxylase and o-succinylbenzoic acid synthase activities. An odhA mutant which lacks the decarboxylase component (usually termed E1, EC, oxoglutarate dehydrogenase [lipoamide]) of the alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase complex was found to synthesize SHCHC and form succinic semialdehyde-thiamine pyrophosphate. Thus, the presence of an alternate alpha-ketoglutarate decarboxylase activity specifically involved in menaquinone biosynthesis is established for B. subtilis. A number of OSB-requiring mutants were also assayed for the presence of the various enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of OSB. All mutants were found to lack only the SHCHC synthase activity.
PMCID: PMC205404  PMID: 8169214
15.  Mechanistic and Structural Analyses of the Roles of Arg409 and Asp402 in the Reaction of the Flavoprotein Nitroalkane Oxidase†‡ 
Biochemistry  2007;46(48):13800-13808.
The flavoprotein nitroalkane oxidase (NAO) catalyzes the oxidation of primary and secondary nitroalkanes to the corresponding aldehydes and ketones. The enzyme is a homolog of acyl-CoA dehydrogenase. Asp402 in NAO has been proposed to be the active site base responsible for removing the substrate proton in the first catalytic step; structurally it corresponds to the glutamate which acts as the base in medium chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase. In the active site of NAO, the carboxylate of Asp402 forms an ionic interaction with the side chain of Arg409. The R409K enzyme has now been characterized kinetically and structurally. The mutation results in a decrease in the rate constant for proton abstraction of 100-fold. Analysis of the three-dimensional structure of the R409K enzyme, determined by X-ray crystallography to a resolution of 2.65 Å, shows that the critical structural change is an increase in the distance between the carboxylate of Asp402 and the positively-charged nitrogen in the side chain of the residue at position 409. The D402E mutation results in a smaller decrease in the rate constant for proton abstraction of 18-fold. The structure of the D402E enzyme, determined at 2.4 Å resolution, shows that there is a smaller increase in the distance between Arg409 and the carboxylate at position 402, and the interaction of this residue with Ser276 is perturbed. These results establish the critical importance of the interaction between Asp402 and Arg409 for proton abstraction by nitroalkane oxidase.
PMCID: PMC2526231  PMID: 17994768
16.  Deciphering the Arginine-Binding Preferences at the Substrate-Binding Groove of Ser/Thr Kinases by Computational Surface Mapping 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(11):e1002288.
Protein kinases are key signaling enzymes that catalyze the transfer of γ-phosphate from an ATP molecule to a phospho-accepting residue in the substrate. Unraveling the molecular features that govern the preference of kinases for particular residues flanking the phosphoacceptor is important for understanding kinase specificities toward their substrates and for designing substrate-like peptidic inhibitors. We applied ANCHORSmap, a new fragment-based computational approach for mapping amino acid side chains on protein surfaces, to predict and characterize the preference of kinases toward Arginine binding. We focus on positions P−2 and P−5, commonly occupied by Arginine (Arg) in substrates of basophilic Ser/Thr kinases. The method accurately identified all the P−2/P−5 Arg binding sites previously determined by X-ray crystallography and produced Arg preferences that corresponded to those experimentally found by peptide arrays. The predicted Arg-binding positions and their associated pockets were analyzed in terms of shape, physicochemical properties, amino acid composition, and in-silico mutagenesis, providing structural rationalization for previously unexplained trends in kinase preferences toward Arg moieties. This methodology sheds light on several kinases that were described in the literature as having non-trivial preferences for Arg, and provides some surprising departures from the prevailing views regarding residues that determine kinase specificity toward Arg. In particular, we found that the preference for a P−5 Arg is not necessarily governed by the 170/230 acidic pair, as was previously assumed, but by several different pairs of acidic residues, selected from positions 133, 169, and 230 (PKA numbering). The acidic residue at position 230 serves as a pivotal element in recognizing Arg from both the P−2 and P−5 positions.
Author Summary
Protein kinases are key signaling enzymes and major drug targets that catalyze the transfer of phosphate group to a phospho-accepting residue in the substrate. Unraveling molecular features that govern the preference of kinases for particular residues flanking the phosphoacceptor (substrate consensus sequence, SCS) is important for understanding kinase-substrates specificities and for designing peptidic inhibitors. Current methods used to predict this set of essential residues usually rely on linking between experimentally determined SCSs to kinase sequences. As such, these methods are less sensitive when specificity is dictated by subtle or kinase-unique sequence/structural features. In this study, we took a different approach for studying kinases specificities, by applying a new fragment-based method for mapping amino acid side chains on protein surfaces. We predicted and characterized the preference of Ser/Thr kinases toward Arginine binding, using the unbound kinase structures. The method produced high quality predictions and was able to provide novel insights and interesting departures from the prevailing views regarding the specificity-determining elements governing specificity toward Arginine. This work paves the way for studying the kinase binding preferences for other amino acids, for predicting protein-peptide structures, for facilitating the design of novel inhibitors, and for re-engineering of kinase specificities.
PMCID: PMC3219626  PMID: 22125489
17.  The role of P4-P3’ residues flanking Arg336 in facilitating activated protein C-catalyzed cleavage and inactivation of factor VIIIa 
Thrombosis research  2011;128(5):470-476.
Activated protein C (APC) inactivates factor VIIIa (FVIIIa) through cleavages at Arg336 in the A1 subunit and Arg562 in the A2 subunit. Proteolysis at Arg336 occurs 25-fold faster than at Arg562. Replacing residues flanking Arg336 en bloc with the corresponding residues surrounding Arg562 markedly reduced the rate of cleavage at Arg336, indicating a role for these residues in the catalysis mechanism.
Materials and Methods
To assess the contributions of individual P4-P3’ residues flanking the Arg336 site to cleavage efficiency, point mutations were made based upon those flanking Arg562 of FVIIIa (Pro333Val, Gln334Asp, Leu335Gln, Met337Gly, Lys338Asn, Asn339Gln) and selected residues flanking Arg506 of FVa (Leu335Arg, and Lys338Ile). APC-catalyzed inactivation of the FVIII variants and cleavage of FVIIIa subunits were monitored by FXa generation assays and Western blotting.
Specific activity values of the variants were 60–135% of the wild type (WT) value. APC-catalyzed rates of cleavage at Arg336 remained similar to WT for the Pro333Val and Lys338Ile variants and was modestly increased for the Asn339Gln variant; while rates were reduced ~2–3-fold for the Gln334Asp, Leu335Gln, Leu335Arg, and Lys338Asn variants, and 5-fold for the Met337Gly variant. Rates for cofactor inactivation paralleled cleavage at the A1 site. APC slowly cleaves Arg372 in FVIII, a site responsible for procofactor activation. Using FVIII as substrate for APC, the Met337Gly variant yielded significantly greater activation compared with WT FVIII.
These results show that individual P4-P3’ residues surrounding Arg336 are in general more favorable to cleavage than those surrounding the Arg562 site.
PMCID: PMC3202615  PMID: 21470668
Factor VIII; activated protein C; P4-P3’ residues; mutagenesis; Western blotting
18.  Replacement of Lys Linker with Arg Linker Resulting in Improved Melanoma Uptake and Reduced Renal Uptake of Tc-99m-Labeled Arg-Gly-Asp-Conjugated Alpha-Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone Hybrid Peptide 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2010;18(18):6695-6700.
The purpose of this study was to reduce the non-specific renal uptake of Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD)-conjugated alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) hybrid peptide through structural modification or L-lysine co-injection. The RGD motif {cyclic(Arg-Gly-Asp-dTyr-Asp)} was coupled to [Cys3,4,10, d-Phe7, Arg11]α-MSH3-13 {(Arg11)CCMSH} through the Arg linker (substituting the Lys linker) to generate a novel RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH hybrid peptide. The melanoma targeting and pharmacokinetic properties of 99mTc-RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH were determined in B16/F1 melanoma-bearing C57 mice. The effect of L-lysine co-injection on the renal uptake was determined through the co-injection of L-lysine with 99mTc-RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH or 99mTc-RGD-Lys-(Arg11)CCMSH. Replacement of the Lys linker with an Arg linker exhibited a profound effect in reducing the non-specific renal uptake of 99mTc-RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH, as well as increasing the tumor uptake of 99mTc-RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH compared to 99mTc-RGD-Lys-(Arg11)CCMSH. 99mTc-RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH exhibited high tumor uptake (21.41 ± 3.74% ID/g at 2 h post-injection) and prolonged tumor retention (6.81 ± 3.71% ID/g at 24 h post-injection) in B16/F1 melanoma-bearing mice. The renal uptake values of 99mTc-RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH were 40.14-64.08% of those of 99mTc-RGD-Lys-(Arg11)CCMSH (p<0.05) at 0.5, 2, 4 and 24 h post-injection. Co-injection of L-lysine was effective in decreasing the renal uptakes of 99mTc-RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH by 27.7% and 99mTc-RGD-Lys-(Arg11)CCMSH by 52.1% at 2 h post-injection. Substitution of the Lys linker with an Arg linker dramatically improved the melanoma uptake and reduced the renal uptake of 99mTc-RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH, warranting the further evaluation of 188Re-labeled RGD-Arg-(Arg11)CCMSH as a novel MC1 receptor-targeting therapeutic peptide for melanoma treatment in the future.
PMCID: PMC2947842  PMID: 20728365
Arg-Gly-Asp; Alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone hybrid peptide; Melanoma imaging and therapy
19.  1-Aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid oxidase reaction mechanism and putative post-translational activities of the ACCO protein 
AoB Plants  2013;5:plt031.
ACC oxidase (Malus. domestica ACCO1) catalyzes the final step in the biosynthesis of the plant hormone ethylene. ACCO converts 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid(ACC) to ethylene, cyanide, carbon dioxide and water in the presence of ferrous ion, oxygen, ascorbic acid and bicarbonate. Cyanide, a product of the reaction, activates ACCO. Site-directed mutagenesis investigations revealed binding sites for ACC, bicarbonate and ascorbic acid to include; Arg175, Arg244, Ser246, Lys158, Lys292, Arg299 and Phe300. ACCO may be involved in the ethylene signal transduction pathway not directly linked to the ACCO reaction through post-translational modifications. ACCO is subject to auto-phosphorylaton in vitro and promotes phosphorylation of some apple fruit proteins in a ripening-dependent manner.
1-Aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) oxidase (ACCO) catalyses the final step in ethylene biosynthesis converting ACC to ethylene, cyanide, CO2, dehydroascorbate and water with inputs of Fe(II), ascorbate, bicarbonate (as activators) and oxygen. Cyanide activates ACCO. A ‘nest’ comprising several positively charged amino acid residues from the C-terminal α-helix 11 along with Lys158 and Arg299 are proposed as binding sites for ascorbate and bicarbonate to coordinately activate the ACCO reaction. The binding sites for ACC, bicarbonate and ascorbic acid for Malus domestica ACCO1 include Arg175, Arg244, Ser246, Lys158, Lys292, Arg299 and Phe300. Glutamate 297, Phe300 and Glu301 in α-helix 11 are also important for the ACCO reaction. Our proposed reaction pathway incorporates cyanide as an ACCO/Fe(II) ligand after reaction turnover. The cyanide ligand is likely displaced upon binding of ACC and ascorbate to provide a binding site for oxygen. We propose that ACCO may be involved in the ethylene signal transduction pathway not directly linked to the ACCO reaction. ACC oxidase has significant homology with Lycopersicon esculentum cysteine protease LeCp, which functions as a protease and as a regulator of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid synthase (Acs2) gene expression. ACC oxidase may play a similar role in signal transduction after post-translational processing. ACC oxidase becomes inactivated by fragmentation and apparently has intrinsic protease and transpeptidase activity. ACC oxidase contains several amino acid sequence motifs for putative protein–protein interactions, phosphokinases and cysteine protease. ACC oxidase is subject to autophosphorylaton in vitro and promotes phosphorylation of some apple fruit proteins in a ripening-dependent manner.
PMCID: PMC3828642  PMID: 24244837
ACC oxidase; ascorbate free radical; ascorbic acid; bicarbonate; cyanide; cysteine protease; phosphorylation; post-translational activities; reaction mechanism; site-directed mutagenesis.
20.  Lysine221 is the general base residue of the isochorismate synthase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PchA) in a reaction that is diffusion limited 
The isochorismate synthase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PchA) catalyzes the conversion of chorismate to isochorismate, which is subsequently converted by a second enzyme (PchB) to salicylate for incorporation into the salicylate-capped siderophore pyochelin. PchA is a member of the MST family of enzymes, which includes the structurally homologous isochorismate synthases from E. coli (EntC and MenF) and salicylate synthases from Yersinia enterocolitica (Irp9) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MbtI). The latter enzymes generate isochorismate as an intermediate before generating salicylate and pyruvate. General acid – general base catalysis has been proposed for isochorismate synthesis in all five enzymes, but the residues required for the isomerization are a matter of debate, with both lysine221 and glutamate313 proposed as the general base (PchA numbering). This work includes a classical characterization of PchA with steady state kinetic analysis, solvent kinetic isotope effect analysis and by measuring the effect of viscosogens on catalysis. The results suggest that isochorismate production from chorismate by the MST enzymes is the result of general acid – general base catalysis with a lysine as the base and a glutamic acid as the acid, in reverse protonation states. Chemistry is determined to not be rate limiting, favoring the hypothesis of a conformational or binding step as the slow step.
PMCID: PMC3784010  PMID: 23942051
Isochorismate synthase; salicylate synthase; siderophore biosynthesis; enzyme kinetics
21.  Structure-Function Analysis of Porcine Cytochrome P450 3A29 in the Hydroxylation of T-2 Toxin as Revealed by Docking and Mutagenesis Studies 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106769.
T-2 toxin, one of the type A trichothecenes, presents a potential hazard to human and animal health. Our previous work demonstrated that porcine cytochrome P450 3A29 (CYP3A29) played an important role in the hydroxylation of T-2 toxin. To identify amino acids involved in this metabolic process, T-2 toxin was docked into a homology model of CYP3A29 based on a crystal structure of CYP3A4 using AutoDock 4.0. Nine residues of CYP3A29, Arg105, Arg106, Phe108, Ser119, Lys212, Phe213, Phe215, Arg372 and Glu374, which were found within 5 Å around T-2 toxin were subjected to site-directed mutagenesis. In the oxidation of nifedipine, the CLint value of R106A was increased by nearly two-folds compared with the wild-type CYP3A29, while the substrate affinities and CLint values of S119A and K212A were significantly reduced. In the hydroxylation of T-2 toxin, the generation of 3′-OH-T-2 by R105A, S119A and K212A was significantly less than that by the wild-type, whereas R106A slightly increased the generation of 3′-OH-T-2. These results were further confirmed by isothermal titration calorimetry analysis, suggesting that these four residues are important in the hydroxylation of T-2 toxin and Arg105 may be a specific recognition site for the toxin. Our study suggests a possible structure-function relationship of CYP3A29 in the hydroxylation of T-2 toxin, providing with new insights into the mechanism of CYP3A enzymes in the biotransformation of T-2 toxin.
PMCID: PMC4153680  PMID: 25184434
22.  Menaquinone biosynthesis in Bacillus subtilis: isolation of men mutants and evidence for clustering of men genes. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1981;145(1):321-327.
Menaquinone (vitamin K2)-deficient mutants of Bacillus subtilis were selected by simultaneous resistance to two aminoglycoside antibiotics. These men mutants fell into two groups: group I, in which the nutritional requirement was satisfied either by o-succinylbenzoic acid or by 1,4-dihydroxy-2-naphthoic acid; and group II, comprising those capable of growing only when supplemented with 1,4-dihydroxy-2-naphthoic acid. The latter group could be further subdivided into two classes on the basis of syntrophy experiments, fine-structure genetic mapping, and in vitro complementation by cell-free extracts (Meganathan et al., J. Bacteriol., 145:328-332, 1981). These subclasses of group II defined the menB and menE genes, whereas group I appeared to comprise mutations in the menC and menD genes. All of the men mutations tested, whether occurring in menB, menE, or menC,D, could be placed by genetic mapping with bacteriophage PBS1 between bioB and ald on the B. subtilis genome.
PMCID: PMC217275  PMID: 6780514
23.  Structure-based approach to alter the substrate specificity of Bacillus subtilis aminopeptidase 
Prion  2013;7(4):328-334.
Aminopeptidases can selectively catalyze the cleavage of the N-terminal amino acid residues from peptides and proteins. Bacillus subtilis aminopeptidase (BSAP) is most active toward p-nitroanilides (pNAs) derivatives of Leu, Arg, and Lys. The BSAP with broad substrate specificity is expected to improve its application. Based on an analysis of the predicted structure of BSAP, four residues (Leu 370, Asn 385, Ile 387, and Val 396) located in the substrate binding region were selected for saturation mutagenesis. The hydrolytic activity toward different aminoacyl-pNAs of each mutant BSAP in the culture supernatant was measured. Although the mutations resulted in a decrease of hydrolytic activity toward Leu-pNA, N385L BSAP exhibited higher hydrolytic activities toward Lys-pNA (2.2-fold) and Ile-pNA (9.1-fold) than wild-type BSAP. Three mutant enzymes (I387A, I387C and I387S BSAPs) specially hydrolyzed Phe-pNA, which was undetectable in wild-type BSAP. Among these mutant BSAPs, N385L and I387A BSAPs were selected for further characterized and used for protein hydrolysis application. Both of N385L and I387A BSAPs showed higher hydrolysis efficiency than the wild-type BASP and a combination of the wild-type and N385L and I387A BSAPs exhibited the highest hydrolysis efficiency for protein hydrolysis. This study will greatly facilitate studies aimed on change the substrate specificity and our results obtained here should be useful for BSAP application in food industry.
PMCID: PMC3904319  PMID: 23787698
Bacillus subtilis; aminopeptidase; substrate specificity; saturation mutagenesis; protein hydrolysis
24.  Novel Insights into the Biotin Carboxylase Domain Reactions of Pyruvate Carboxylase from Rhizobium etli† 
Biochemistry  2011;50(45):9724-9737.
The catalytic mechanism of the MgATP-dependent carboxylation of biotin in the biotin carboxylase domain of pyruvate carboxylase from R. etli (RePC) is common to the biotin-dependent carboxylases. The current site-directed mutagenesis study has clarified the catalytic functions of several residues proposed to be pivotal in MgATP-binding and cleavage (Glu218 and Lys245), HCO3− deprotonation (Glu305 and Arg301) and biotin enolization (Arg353). The E218A mutant was inactive for any reaction involving the BC domain and the E218Q mutant exhibited a 75-fold decrease in kcat for both pyruvate carboxylation and the full reverse reaction. The E305A mutant also showed a 75- and 80-fold decrease in kcat for both pyruvate carboxylation and the full reverse reaction, respectively. While Glu305 appears to be the active site base which deprotonates HCO3−, Lys245, Glu218 and Arg301 are proposed to contribute to catalysis through substrate binding interactions. The reactions of the biotin carboxylase and carboxyl transferase domains were uncoupled in the R353M-catalyzed reactions, indicating that Arg353 may not only facilitate the formation of the biotin enolate, but also assist in coordinating catalysis between the two spatially distinct active sites. The 2.5 and 4-fold increase in kcat for the full reverse reaction with the R353K and R353M mutants, respectively, suggests that mutation of Arg353 allows carboxybiotin increased access to the biotin carboxylase domain active site. The proposed chemical mechanism is initiated by the deprotonation of HCO3− by Glu305 and concurrent nucleophilic attack on the γ-phosphate of MgATP. The trianionic carboxyphosphate intermediate formed reversibly decomposes in the active site to CO2 and PO43−. PO43− then acts as the base to deprotonate the tethered biotin at the N1-position. Stabilized by interactions between the ureido oxygen and Arg353, the biotin-enolate reacts with CO2 to give carboxybiotin. The formation of a distinct salt bridge between Arg353 and Glu248 is proposed to aid in partially precluding carboxybiotin from reentering the biotin carboxylase active site, thus preventing its premature decarboxylation prior to the binding of a carboxyl acceptor in the carboxyl transferase domain.
PMCID: PMC3211089  PMID: 21957995
25.  Sequence and overexpression of the menD gene from Escherichia coli. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1989;171(8):4349-4354.
The menD gene of Escherichia coli codes for the first enzyme of menaquinone biosynthesis, 2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate (SHCHC) synthase. DNA sequence analysis of menD shows an open reading frame encoding a 52-kilodalton protein. Possible promoter and ribosome binding sites are present. Insertion of the menD gene into a tac promoter expression vector leads to nearly a 100-fold increase in the level of SHCHC synthase activity upon induction with isopropyl-beta-D-thiogalactoside (IPTG). Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of [35S]methionine-labeled proteins shows a 61-kilodalton protein produced upon induction of the menD-containing expression vector. This is the first reported sequence analysis of a men gene and the first significant amplification of any of the menaquinone biosynthetic enzymes.
PMCID: PMC210211  PMID: 2666397

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