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J Biol Chem. 2004 May 21;279(21):22693-703. Epub 2004 Mar 1.

Structural basis for acceptor substrate recognition of a human glucuronyltransferase, GlcAT-P, an enzyme critical in the biosynthesis of the carbohydrate epitope HNK-1.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


The HNK-1 carbohydrate epitope is found on many neural cell adhesion molecules. Its structure is characterized by a terminal sulfated glucuronyl acid. The glucuronyltransferases, GlcAT-P and GlcAT-S, are involved in the biosynthesis of the HNK-1 epitope, GlcAT-P as the major enzyme. We overexpressed and purified the recombinant human GlcAT-P from Escherichia coli. Analysis of its enzymatic activity showed that it catalyzed the transfer reaction for N-acetyllactosamine (Galbeta1-4GlcNAc) but not lacto-N-biose (Galbeta1-3GlcNAc) as an acceptor substrate. Subsequently, we determined the first x-ray crystal structures of human GlcAT-P, in the absence and presence of a donor substrate product UDP, catalytic Mn(2+), and an acceptor substrate analogue N-acetyllactosamine (Galbeta1-4GlcNAc) or an asparagine-linked biantennary nonasaccharide. The asymmetric unit contains two independent molecules. Each molecule is an alpha/beta protein with two regions that constitute the donor and acceptor substrate binding sites. The UDP moiety of donor nucleotide sugar is recognized by conserved amino acid residues including a DXD motif (Asp(195)-Asp(196)-Asp(197)). Other conserved amino acid residues interact with the terminal galactose moiety of the acceptor substrate. In addition, Val(320) and Asn(321), which are located on the C-terminal long loop from a neighboring molecule, and Phe(245) contribute to the interaction with GlcNAc moiety. These three residues play a key role in establishing the acceptor substrate specificity.

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