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1.  Inversion of allosteric effect of arginine on N-acetylglutamate synthase, a molecular marker for evolution of tetrapods 
BMC Biochemistry  2008;9:24.
The efficient conversion of ammonia, a potent neurotoxin, into non-toxic metabolites was an essential adaptation that allowed animals to move from the aquatic to terrestrial biosphere. The urea cycle converts ammonia into urea in mammals, amphibians, turtles, snails, worms and many aquatic animals and requires N-acetylglutamate (NAG), an essential allosteric activator of carbamylphosphate synthetase I (CPSI) in mammals and amphibians, and carbamylphosphate synthetase III (CPSIII) in fish and invertebrates. NAG-dependent CPSI and CPSIII catalyze the formation of carbamylphosphate in the first and rate limiting step of ureagenesis. NAG is produced enzymatically by N-acetylglutamate synthase (NAGS), which is also found in bacteria and plants as the first enzyme of arginine biosynthesis. Arginine is an allosteric inhibitor of microbial and plant NAGS, and allosteric activator of mammalian NAGS.
Information from mutagenesis studies of E. coli and P. aeruginosa NAGS was combined with structural information from the related bacterial N-acetylglutamate kinases to identify four residues in mammalian NAGS that interact with arginine. Substitutions of these four residues were engineered in mouse NAGS and into the vertebrate-like N-acetylglutamate synthase-kinase (NAGS-K) of Xanthomonas campestris, which is inhibited by arginine. All mutations resulted in arginine losing the ability to activate mouse NAGS, and inhibit X. campestris NAGS-K. To examine at what point in evolution inversion of arginine effect on NAGS occur, we cloned NAGS from fish and frogs and examined the arginine response of their corresponding proteins. Fish NAGS were partially inhibited by arginine and frog NAGS were activated by arginine.
Difference in arginine effect on bacterial and mammalian NAGS most likely stems from the difference in the type of conformational change triggered by arginine binding to these proteins. The change from arginine inhibition of NAGS to activation was gradual, from complete inhibition of bacterial NAGS, to partial inhibition of fish NAGS, to activation of frog and mammalian NAGS. This change also coincided with the conquest of land by amphibians and mammals.
PMCID: PMC2566978  PMID: 18801197
2.  A novel bifunctional N-acetylglutamate synthase-kinase from Xanthomonas campestris that is closely related to mammalian N-acetylglutamate synthase 
BMC Biochemistry  2007;8:4.
In microorganisms and plants, the first two reactions of arginine biosynthesis are catalyzed by N-acetylglutamate synthase (NAGS) and N-acetylglutamate kinase (NAGK). In mammals, NAGS produces an essential activator of carbamylphosphate synthetase I, the first enzyme of the urea cycle, and no functional NAGK homolog has been found. Unlike the other urea cycle enzymes, whose bacterial counterparts could be readily identified by their sequence conservation with arginine biosynthetic enzymes, mammalian NAGS gene was very divergent, making it the last urea cycle gene to be discovered. Limited sequence similarity between E. coli NAGS and fungal NAGK suggests that bacterial and eukaryotic NAGS, and fungal NAGK arose from the fusion of genes encoding an ancestral NAGK (argB) and an acetyltransferase. However, mammalian NAGS no longer retains any NAGK catalytic activity.
We identified a novel bifunctional N-acetylglutamate synthase and kinase (NAGS-K) in the Xanthomonadales order of gamma-proteobacteria that appears to resemble this postulated primordial fusion protein. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that xanthomonad NAGS-K is more closely related to mammalian NAGS than to other bacterial NAGS. We cloned the NAGS-K gene from Xanthomonas campestis, and characterized the recombinant NAGS-K protein. Mammalian NAGS and its bacterial homolog have similar affinities for substrates acetyl coenzyme A and glutamate as well as for their allosteric regulator arginine.
The close phylogenetic relationship and similar biochemical properties of xanthomonad NAGS-K and mammalian NAGS suggest that we have identified a close relative to the bacterial antecedent of mammalian NAGS and that the enzyme from X. campestris could become a good model for mammalian NAGS in structural, biochemical and biophysical studies.
PMCID: PMC1865377  PMID: 17425781

Results 1-2 (2)