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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2000 Feb;30(2):107-17.

Homology modeling of the insect chitinase catalytic domain--oligosaccharide complex and the role of a putative active site tryptophan in catalysis.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Kansas State University, Manhattan 66506, USA.


Knowledge-based protein modeling and substrate docking experiments as well as structural and sequence comparisons were performed to identify potential active-site residues in chitinase, a molting enzyme from the tobacco hornworm, Munduca sexta. We report here the identification of an active-site amino acid residue, W145. Several mutated forms of the gene encoding this protein were generated by site-directed mutagenesis, expressed in a baculovirus-insect cell-line system, and the corresponding mutant proteins were purified and characterized for their catalytic and substrate-binding properties. W145, which is present in the presumptive catalytic site, was selected for mutation to phenylalanine (F) and glycine (G), and the resulting mutant enzymes were characterized to evaluate the mechanistic role of this residue. The wild-type and W145F mutant proteins exhibited similar hydrolytic activities towards a tri-GlcNAc oligosaccharide substrate, but the former was approximately twofold more active towards a polymeric chitin-modified substrate. The W145G mutant protein was inactive towards both substrates, although it still retained its ability to bind chitin. Therefore, W145 is required for optimal catalytic activity but is not essential for binding to chitin. Measurement of kinetic constants of the wild-type and mutant proteins suggests that W145 increases the affinity of the enzyme for the polymeric substrate and also extends the alkaline pH range in which the enzyme is active.

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