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Biochemistry. 2001 Feb 13;40(6):1550-9.

Asparagine 23 and aspartate 305 are essential residues in the active site of UDP-N-acetylglucosamine enolpyruvyl transferase from Enterobacter cloacae.

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  • 1Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Institut für Pflanzenwissenschaften, Universitätstrasse 2, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland.


UDP-N-acetylglucosamine enolpyruvyl transferase (MurA) catalyzes the transfer of the intact enolpyruvyl moiety of phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) to the 3'-hydroxyl group of UDP-N-acetylglucosamine (UDPNAG). This reaction constitutes the first committed step in the biosynthesis of the bacterial cell wall component peptidoglycan (murein). The transfer reaction involves the nucleophilic attack of the 3'-hydroxyl group of UDPNAG at the C-2 of PEP. The three-dimensional structure of MurA complexed with UDPNAG revealed an aspartate residue (D305 in the En. cloacae sequence) close to the 3'-hydroxyl group of UDPNAG, suggesting that it may act as an acid-base catalyst in the active center of the enzyme. In addition to aspartate 305, asparagine 23 also interacts with the 3'-hydroxyl group; however, its role in catalysis or binding of the UDPNAG substrate is unclear. To gain information on the role of these two amino acids in the MurA-catalyzed reaction we have exchanged D305 for alanine, cysteine, histidine, and glutamate, and N23 for alanine and serine using site-directed mutagenesis. While the D305 alanine, cysteine, and histidine mutant proteins do not have detectable enzymatic activity, the D305E mutant protein exhibits a low residual activity (ca. 0.1% of the wild-type enzyme). Unlike with wild-type MurA, no exothermic signal was obtained when the D305A and -E mutant proteins were titrated with UDPNAG, demonstrating that the affinity of the sugar nucleotide substrate is reduced as a result of the amino acid exchange. The reduced affinity to UDPNAG leads to a lower propensity of C115 to form either the O-phosphothioketal with PEP or the thioether with the antibiotic fosfomycin. These findings emphasize the dual role of D305 as a general base and an essential binding partner to UDPNAG in the active site of MurA. Similarly, the two N23 mutant proteins showed a much lower catalytic activity although binding of UDPNAG was not as much affected as in the case of the D305 mutant proteins. This result indicates that this amino acid residue is mainly involved in stabilization of transition states.

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