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Biochemistry. 2001 Mar 27;40(12):3730-6.

Activation of class III ribonucleotide reductase by flavodoxin: a protein radical-driven electron transfer to the iron-sulfur center.

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Laboratoire de Chimie et Biochimie des Centres Rédox Biologiques, DBMS-CB, CEA/CNRS/Université Joseph Fourier, 17, avenue des Martyrs, 38054 Grenoble Cedex 09, France.


In its active form, Escherichia coli class III ribonucleotide reductase homodimer alpha(2) relies on a protein free radical located on the Gly(681) residue of the alpha polypeptide. The formation of the glycyl radical, namely, the activation of the enzyme, involves the concerted action of four components: S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet), dithiothreitol (DTT), an Fe-S protein called beta or "activase", and a reducing system consisting of NADPH, NADPH:flavodoxin oxidoreductase, and flavodoxin (fldx). It has been proposed that a reductant serves to generate a reduced [4Fe-4S](+) cluster absolutely required for the reductive cleavage of AdoMet and the generation of the radical. Here, we suggest that the one-electron reduced form of flavodoxin (SQ), the only detectable product of the in vitro enzymatic reduction of flavodoxin, can support the formation of the glycyl radical. However, the redox potential of the Fe-S center of the enzyme is shown to be approximately 300 mV more negative than that of the SQ/fldx couple and not shifted to a more positive value by AdoMet binding. It is also more negative than that of the HQ/SQ couple, HQ being the fully reduced form of flavodoxin. Our interpretation is that activation of ribonucleotide reductase occurs through coupling of the reduction of the Fe-S center by flavodoxin to two thermodynamically favorable reactions, the oxidation of the cluster by AdoMet, yielding methionine and the 5'-deoxyadenosyl radical, and the oxidation of the glycine residue to the corresponding glycyl radical by the 5'-deoxyadenosyl radical. The second reaction plays the major role on the basis that a Gly-to-Ala mutation results in a greatly decreased production of methionine.

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