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Biochemistry. 2000 Nov 21;39(46):14348-55.

Redesigning the substrate specificity of an enzyme: isocitrate dehydrogenase.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


Despite the structural similarities between isocitrate and isopropylmalate, isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) exhibits a strong preference for its natural substrate. Using a combination of rational and random mutagenesis, we have engineered IDH to use isopropylmalate as a substrate. Rationally designed mutations were based on comparison of IDH to a similar enzyme, isopropylmalate dehydrogenase (IPMDH). A chimeric enzyme that replaced an active site loop-helix motif with IPMDH sequences exhibited no activity toward isopropylmalate, and site-directed mutants that replaced IDH residues with their IPMDH equivalents only showed small improvements in k(cat). Random mutants targeted the IDH active site at positions 113 (substituted with glutamate), 115, and 116 (both randomized) and were screened for activity toward isopropylmalate. Six mutants were identified that exhibited up to an 8-fold improvement in k(cat) and increased the apparent binding affinity by as much as a factor of 80. In addition to the S113E mutation, five other mutants contained substitutions at positions 115 and/or 116. Most small hydrophobic substitutions at position 116 improved activity, possibly by generating space to accommodate the isopropyl group of isopropylmalate; however, substitution with serine yielded the most improvement in k(cat). Only two substitutions were identified at position 115, which suggests a more specific role for the wild-type asparagine residue in the utilization of isopropylmalate. Since interactions between neighboring residues in this region greatly influenced the effects of each other in unexpected ways, structural solutions were best identified in combinations, as allowed by random mutagenesis.

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