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Structure. 1997 Aug 15;5(8):1077-92.

Binding of allosteric effectors to ribonucleotide reductase protein R1: reduction of active-site cysteines promotes substrate binding.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala Biomedical Center, Sweden.



Ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) is an essential enzyme in DNA synthesis, catalyzing all de novo synthesis of deoxyribonucleotides. The enzyme comprises two dimers, termed R1 and R2, and contains the redox active cysteine residues, Cys462 and Cys225. The reduction of ribonucleotides to deoxyribonucleotides involves the transfer of free radicals. The pathway for the radical has previously been suggested from crystallographic results, and is supported by site-directed mutagenesis studies. Most RNRs are allosterically regulated through two different nucleotide-binding sites: one site controls general activity and the other controls substrate specificity. Our aim has been to crystallographically demonstrate substrate binding and to locate the two effector-binding sites.


We report here the first crystal structure of RNR R1 in a reduced form. The structure shows that upon reduction of the redox active cysteines, the sulfur atom of Cys462 becomes deeply buried. The more accessible Cys225 moves to the former position of Cys462 making room for the substrate. In addition, the structures of R1 in complexes with effector, effector analog and effector plus substrate provide information about these binding sites. The substrate GDP binds in a cleft between two domains with its beta-phosphate bound to the N termini of two helices; the ribose forms hydrogen bonds to conserved residues. Binding of dTTP at the allosteric substrate specificity site stabilizes three loops close to the dimer interface and the active site, whereas the general allosteric binding site is positioned far from the active site.


Binding of substrate at the active site of the enzyme is structurally regulated in two ways: binding of the correct substrate is regulated by the binding of allosteric effectors and binding of the actual substrate occurs primarily when the active-site cysteines are reduced. One of the loops stabilized upon binding of dTTP participates in the formation of the substrate-binding site through direct interaction with the nucleotide base. The general allosteric effector site, located far from the active site, appears to regulate subunit interactions within the holoenzyme.

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