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Structure. 2001 Sep;9(9):789-802.

Glycerol dehydrogenase. structure, specificity, and mechanism of a family III polyol dehydrogenase.

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  • 1Krebs Institute for Biomolecular Research, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, Firth Court, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, United Kingdom.



Bacillus stearothermophilus glycerol dehydrogenase (GlyDH) (glycerol:NAD(+) 2-oxidoreductase, EC catalyzes the oxidation of glycerol to dihydroxyacetone (1,3-dihydroxypropanone) with concomitant reduction of NAD(+) to NADH. Analysis of the sequence of this enzyme indicates that it is a member of the so-called iron-containing alcohol dehydrogenase family. Despite this sequence similarity, GlyDH shows a strict dependence on zinc for activity. On the basis of this, we propose to rename this group the family III metal-dependent polyol dehydrogenases. To date, no structural data have been reported for any enzyme in this group.


The crystal structure of B. stearothermophilus glycerol dehydrogenase has been determined at 1.7 A resolution to provide structural insights into the mechanistic features of this family. The enzyme has 370 amino acid residues, has a molecular mass of 39.5 kDa, and is a homooctamer in solution.


Analysis of the crystal structures of the free enzyme and of the binary complexes with NAD(+) and glycerol show that the active site of GlyDH lies in the cleft between the enzyme's two domains, with the catalytic zinc ion playing a role in stabilizing an alkoxide intermediate. In addition, the specificity of this enzyme for a range of diols can be understood, as both hydroxyls of the glycerol form ligands to the enzyme-bound Zn(2+) ion at the active site. The structure further reveals a previously unsuspected similarity to dehydroquinate synthase, an enzyme whose more complex chemistry shares a common chemical step with that catalyzed by glycerol dehydrogenase, providing a striking example of divergent evolution. Finally, the structure suggests that the NAD(+) binding domain of GlyDH may be related to that of the classical Rossmann fold by switching the sequence order of the two mononucleotide binding folds that make up this domain.

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