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Biochemistry. 2000 Aug 1;39(30):9018-29.

Porphobilinogen synthase from pea: expression from an artificial gene, kinetic characterization, and novel implications for subunit interactions.

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Institute for Cancer Research, Fox Chase Cancer Center, 7701 Burholme Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19111, USA.


Porphobilinogen synthase (PBGS) is present in all organisms that synthesize tetrapyrroles such as heme, chlorophyll, and vitamin B(12). The homooctameric metalloenzyme catalyzes the condensation of two 5-aminolevulinic acid molecules to form the tetrapyrrole precursor porphobilinogen. An artificial gene encoding PBGS of pea (Pisum sativum L.) was designed to overcome previous problems during bacterial expression caused by suboptimal codon usage and was constructed by recursive polymerase chain reaction from synthetic oligonucleotides. The recombinant 330 residue enzyme without a putative chloroplast transit peptide was expressed in Escherichia coli and purified in 100-mg quantities. The specific activity is protein concentration dependent, which indicates that a maximally active octamer can dissociate into less active smaller units. The enzyme is most active at slightly alkaline pH; it shows two pK(a) values of 7.4 and 9.7. Atomic absorption spectroscopy shows maximal binding of three Mg(II) per subunit; kinetic data support two functionally distinct types of Mg(II) and the third appears to be nonphysiologic and inhibitory. Analysis of the protein concentration dependence of the specific activity suggests that the minimal functional unit is a tetramer. A model of octameric pea PBGS was built to predict the location of intermolecular disulfide linkages that were revealed by nonreducing sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. As verified by site-specific mutagenesis, disulfide linkages can form between four cysteines per octamer, each located five amino acids from the C-terminus. These data are consistent with the protein undergoing conformational changes and the idea that whole-body motion can occur between subunits.

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