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EMBO J. 2001 Dec 3;20(23):6583-90.

V-shaped structure of glutamyl-tRNA reductase, the first enzyme of tRNA-dependent tetrapyrrole biosynthesis.

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  • 1Institute of Microbiology, Technical University Braunschweig, Spielmannstrasse 7, D-38106 Braunschweig, Germany.


Processes vital to life such as respiration and photosynthesis critically depend on the availability of tetrapyrroles including hemes and chlorophylls. tRNA-dependent catalysis generally is associated with protein biosynthesis. An exception is the reduction of glutamyl-tRNA to glutamate-1-semialdehyde by the enzyme glutamyl-tRNA reductase. This reaction is the indispensable initiating step of tetrapyrrole biosynthesis in plants and most prokaryotes. The crystal structure of glutamyl-tRNA reductase from the archaeon Methanopyrus kandleri in complex with the substrate-like inhibitor glutamycin at 1.9 A resolution reveals an extended yet planar V-shaped dimer. The well defined interactions of the inhibitor with the active site support a thioester-mediated reduction process. Modeling the glutamyl-tRNA onto each monomer reveals an extensive protein-tRNA interface. We furthermore propose a model whereby the large void of glutamyl-tRNA reductase is occupied by glutamate-1-semialdehyde-1,2-mutase, the subsequent enzyme of this pathway, allowing for the efficient synthesis of 5-aminolevulinic acid, the common precursor of all tetrapyrroles.

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