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J Biol Chem. 2002 Mar 1;277(9):7231-8. Epub 2001 Dec 27.

Specificity determining residues in ammonia- and glutamine-dependent carbamoyl phosphate synthetases.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Carbamoyl phosphate synthetases (CPSs) utilize either glutamine or ammonia for the ATP-dependent generation of carbamoyl phosphate. In glutamine-utilizing CPSs (e.g. the single Escherichia coli CPS and mammalian CPS II), the hydrolysis of glutamine to yield ammonia is catalyzed at a triad-type glutamine amidotransferase domain. Non-glutamine-utilizing CPSs (e.g. rat and human CPS I), lacking the catalytic cysteine residue, can generate carbamoyl phosphate only in the presence of free ammonia. Frog CPS I (fCPS I), unlike mammalian CPS Is, retains most of the glutamine amidotransferase residues conserved in glutamine-utilizing CPSs, including an intact catalytic triad, and could therefore be expected to use glutamine. Our work with native fCPS I provides the first demonstration of the inability of this enzyme to bind/utilize glutamine. To determine why fCPS I is unable to utilize glutamine, we compared sequences of glutamine-using and non-glutamine-using CPSs to identify residues that are present or conservatively substituted in all glutamine-utilizing CPSs but absent in fCPS I. We constructed the site-directed mutants Q273E, L270K, Q273E/N240S, and Q273E/L270K in E. coli CPS and have determined that simultaneous occurrence of the two substitutions, Gln-->Glu and Leu-->Lys, found in the frog CPS I glutamine amidotransferase domain are sufficient to eliminate glutamine utilization by the E. coli enzyme.

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