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Biochemistry. 2004 Sep 28;43(38):12028-37.

Dissection of the physiological interconversion of 5alpha-DHT and 3alpha-diol by rat 3alpha-HSD via transient kinetics shows that the chemical step is rate-determining: effect of mutating cofactor and substrate-binding pocket residues on catalysis.

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Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6084, USA.


3Alpha-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (3alpha-HSDs) catalyze the interconversion between 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (5alpha-DHT), the most potent androgen, and 3alpha-androstanediol (3alpha-diol), a weak androgen metabolite. To identify the rate-determining step in this physiologically important reaction, rat liver 3alpha-HSD (AKR1C9) was used as the protein model for the human homologues in fluorescence stopped-flow transient kinetic and kinetic isotope effect studies. Using single and multiple turnover experiments to monitor the NADPH-dependent reduction of 5alpha-DHT, it was found that k(lim) and k(max) values were identical to k(cat), indicating that chemistry is rate-limiting overall. Kinetic isotope effect measurements, which gave (D)k(cat) = 2.4 and (D)2(O)k(cat) = 3.0 at pL 6.0, suggest that the slow chemical transformation is significantly rate-limiting. When the NADP(+)-dependent oxidation of 3alpha-diol was monitored, single and multiple turnover experiments showed a k(lim) and burst kinetics consistent with product release as being rate-limiting overall. When NAD(+) was substituted for NADP(+), burst phase kinetics was eliminated, and k(max) was identical to k(cat). Thus with the physiologically relevant substrates 5alpha-DHT plus NADPH and 3alpha-diol plus NAD(+), the slowest event is chemistry. R276 forms a salt-linkage with the phosphate of 2'-AMP, and when it is mutated, tight binding of NAD(P)H is no longer observed [Ratnam, K., et al. (1999) Biochemistry 38, 7856-7864]. The R276M mutant also eliminated the burst phase kinetics observed for the NADP(+)-dependent oxidation of 3alpha-diol. The data with the R276M mutant confirms that the release of the NADPH product is the slow event; and in its absence, chemistry becomes rate-limiting. W227 is a critical hydrophobic residue at the steroid binding site, and when it is mutated to alanine, k(cat)/K(m) for oxidation is significantly depressed. Burst phase kinetics for the NADP(+)-dependent turnover of 3alpha-diol by W227A was also abolished. In the W227A mutant, the slow release of NADPH is no longer observed since the chemical transformation is now even slower. Thus, residues in the cofactor and steroid-binding site can alter the rate-determining step in the NADP(+)-dependent oxidation of 3alpha-diol to make chemistry rate-limiting overall.

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