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J Biol Chem. 1980 May 10;255(9):3964-76.

Sequence of active site peptides from the penicillin-sensitive D-alanine carboxypeptidase of Bacillus subtilis. Mechanism of penicillin action and sequence homology to beta-lactamases.


It has been proposed that penicillin and other beta-lactam antibiotics are substrate analogs which inactivate certain essential enzymes of bacterial cell wall biosynthesis by acylating a catalytic site amino acid residue (Tipper, D.J., and Strominger, J.L. (1965) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 54, 1133-1141). A key prediction of this hypothesis, that the penicilloyl moiety and an acyl moiety derived from substrate both bind to the same active site residue, has been examined. D-Alanine carboxypeptidase, a penicillin-sensitive membrane enzyme, was purified from Bacillus subtilis and labeled covalently at the antibiotic binding site with [14C]penicillin G or with the cephalosporin [14C]cefoxitin. Alternatively, an acyl moiety derived from the depsipeptide substrate [14C]diacetyl L-Lys-D-Ala-D-lactate was trapped at the catalytic site in near-stoichiometric amounts by rapid denaturation of an acyl-enzyme intermediate. Radiolabeled peptides were purified from a pepsin digest of each of the 14C-labeled D-alanine carboxypeptidases and their amino acid sequences determined. Antibiotic- and substrate-labeled peptic peptides had the same sequence: Tyr-Ser-Lys-Asn-Ala-Asp-Lys-Arg-Leu-Pro-Ile-Ala-Ser-Met. Acyl moieties derived from antibiotic and from substrate were shown to be bound covalently in ester linkage to the identical amino acid residue, a serine at the penultimate position of the peptic peptide. These studies establish that beta-lactam antibiotics are indeed active site-directed acylating agents. Additional amino acid sequence data were obtained by isolating and sequencing [14C]penicilloyl peptides after digestion of [14C]penicilloyl D-alanine carboxypeptidase with either trypsin or cyanogen bromide and by NH2-terminal sequencing of the uncleaved protein. The sequence of the NH2-terminal 64 amino acids was thus determined and the active site serine then identified as residue 36. A computer search for homologous proteins indicated significant sequence homology between the active site of D-alanine carboxypeptidase and the NH2-terminal portion of beta-lactamases. Maximum homology was obtained when the active site serine of D-alanine carboxypeptidase was aligned correctly with a serine likely to be involved in beta-lactamase catalysis. These findings provide strong evidence that penicillin-sensitive D-alanine carboxypeptidases and penicillin-inactivating beta-lactamases are related evolutionarily.

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