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Plant Physiol. 2004 Dec;136(4):4256-64. Epub 2004 Nov 24.

The biosynthesis of UDP-galacturonic acid in plants. Functional cloning and characterization of Arabidopsis UDP-D-glucuronic acid 4-epimerase.

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  • 1Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602-4712, USA.


UDP-GlcA 4-epimerase (UGlcAE) catalyzes the epimerization of UDP-alpha-D-glucuronic acid (UDP-GlcA) to UDP-alpha-D-galacturonic acid (UDP-GalA). UDP-GalA is a precursor for the synthesis of numerous cell-surface polysaccharides in bacteria and plants. Using a biochemical screen, a gene encoding AtUGlcAE1 in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) was identified and the recombinant enzyme biochemically characterized. The gene belongs to a small gene family composed of six isoforms. All members of the UGlcAE gene family encode a putative type-II membrane protein and have two domains: a variable N-terminal region approximately 120 amino acids long composed of a predicted cytosolic, transmembrane, and stem domain, followed by a large conserved C-terminal catalytic region approximately 300 amino acids long composed of a highly conserved catalytic domain found in a large protein family of epimerase/dehydratases. The recombinant epimerase has a predicted molecular mass of approximately 43 kD, although size-exclusion chromatography suggests that it may exist as a dimer (approximately 88 kD). AtUGlcAE1 forms UDP-GalA with an equilibrium constant value of approximately 1.9 and has an apparent K(m) value of 720 microm for UDP-GlcA. The enzyme has maximum activity at pH 7.5 and is active between 20 degrees C and 55 degrees C. Arabidopsis AtUGlcAE1 is not inhibited by UDP-Glc, UDP-Gal, or UMP. However, the enzyme is inhibited by UDP-Xyl and UDP-Ara, suggesting that these nucleotide sugars have a role in regulating the synthesis of pectin. The cloning of the AtUGlcAE1 gene will increase our ability to investigate the molecular factors that regulate pectin biosynthesis in plants. The availability of a functional recombinant UDP-GlcA 4-epimerase will be of considerable value for the facile generation of UDP-d-GalA in the amounts required for detailed studies of pectin biosynthesis.

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