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Biochemistry. 1999 Oct 5;38(40):13106-11.

Role of cysteine residues in pseudouridine synthases of different families.

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Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of Delaware, Newark 19716, USA.


The pseudouridine synthases catalyze the isomerization of uridine to pseudouridine in RNA molecules. An attractive mechanism was proposed based on that of thymidylate synthase, in which the thiol(ate) group of a cysteine side chain serves as the nucleophile in a Michael addition to C6 of the isomerized uridine. Such a role for cysteine in the pseudouridine synthase TruA (also named Psi synthase I) has been discredited by site-directed mutagenesis, but sequence alignments have led to the conclusion that there are four distinct "families" of pseudouridine synthases that share no statistically significant global sequence similarity. It was, therefore, necessary to probe the role of cysteine residues in pseudouridine synthases of the families that do not include TruA. We examined the enzymes RluA and TruB, which are members of different families than TruA and each other. Substitution of cysteine for amino acids with nonnucleophilic side chains did not significantly alter the catalytic activity of either pseudouridine synthase. We conclude, therefore, that neither TruB nor RluA require thiol(ate) groups to effect catalysis, excluding their participation in a Michael addition to C6 of uridine, although not eliminating that mechanism (with an alternate nucleophile) from future consideration.

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