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J Biol Chem. 1996 Mar 15;271(11):6490-6.

Efficient expression of the gene for spinach phosphoribulokinase in Pichia pastoris and utilization of the recombinant enzyme to explore the role of regulatory cysteinyl residues by site-directed mutagenesis.

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  • 1Protein Engineering Program, Biology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee 37831, USA.


Phosphoribulokinase (PRK), unique to photosynthetic organisms, is regulated in higher plants by thioredoxin-mediated thiol-disulfide exchange in a light-dependent manner. Prior attempts to overexpress the higher plant PRK gene in Escherichia coli for structure-function studies have been hampered by sensitivity of the recombinant protein to proteolysis as well as toxic effects of the protein on the host. To overcome these impediments, we have spliced the spinach PRK coding sequence immediately downstream from the AOX1 (alcohol oxidase) promoter of Pichia pastoris, displacing the chromosomal AOX1 gene. The PRK gene is now expressed, in response to methanol, at 4-6% of total soluble protein, without significant in vivo degradation of the recombinant enzyme. This recombinant spinach PRK is purified to homogeneity by successive anion-exchange and dye-affinity chromatography and is shown to be electrophoretically and kinetically indistinguishable from the authentic spinach counterpart. Site-specific replacement of all of PRK's cysteinyl residues (both individually and in combination) demonstrates a modest catalytically facilitative role for Cys-55 (one of the regulatory residues) and the lack of any catalytic role for Cys-16 (the other regulatory residue), Cys-244, or Cys-250. Mutants with seryl substitutions at position 55 display non-hyperbolic kinetics relative to the concentration of ribulose 5-phosphate. Sulfate restores hyperbolic kinetics and enhances kinase activity, presumably reflecting conformational differences between the position 55 mutants and wild-type enzyme. Catalytic competence of the C16S-C55S double mutant proves that mere loss of free sulfhydryl groups by oxidative regulation cannot account entirely for the accompanying total inactivation.

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