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Biochemistry. 1975 Oct 7;14(20):4515-22.

Reaction mechanism and structure of the active site of proline racemase.


Proline racemase catalyzes the interconversion of D- and L-proline. Previous studies in this laboratory have established that the reaction proceeds by means of a two-base mechanism in which one base on the enzyme removes the substrate alpha-hydrogen as a proton and the conjugate acid of another base donates a proton to the opposite side of the alpha-carbon (Cardinale, G.J., and Abeles, R.H., (1968), Biochemistry 7, 3970. An assumption of the proposed mechanism was that no proton exchange occurs from the enzyme-substrate complex. In the present study, we have shown that the rate of 3H release from DL-[alpha-3H]proline, in the presence of proline racemase, decreases with increasing proline concentrations. These results establish that release of the substrate derived proton from the enzyme occurs largely, possibly exclusively, after release of the product. Under initial velocity conditions, the rate of 3H release from L-[alpha-3H]proline is not reduced with increasing L-proline concentrations. Thus, the enzyme-bound proton derived from one isomer can only be "captured" by the other isomer. We conclude that there are two forms of the enzyme; one binds L-proline and the other D-proline. Release of the substrate derived proton from enzyme is more rapid than the interconversion of these two forms. These results are consistent with the previously proposed mechanism. Proline racemase is composed of similar subunits of mol wt 38,000 as determined by gel electrophoresis in the presence of sodium dodecyl sulfate. Equilibrium dialysis experiments detect only one substrate binding site for every two subunits. When the oxidized form of the enzyme, which is inactive and cannot bind substrate, is reduced by thiol to yield active enzyme, two cysteine sulfhydryl groups per dimer become available to react with iodoacetate. Inactivation of the enzyme occurs upon modification of one of these cysteines. All iodoacetate incorporation occurs at the same point in the primary sequence of the enzyme, and can be prevented by the presence of proline or pyrrole-2-carboxylate, a substrate analog. A model is proposed in which a single active site is formed by elements of two identical subunits. Although the data are consistent with this model, another interpretation, in which half of the subunits are nonfunctional, cannot be ruled out.

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