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Biochemistry. 2005 Sep 27;44(38):12728-36.

Shared promiscuous activities and evolutionary features in various members of the amidohydrolase superfamily.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, The Weizmann Institute of Science, 76100 Rehovot, Israel.


The amidohydrolase superfamily comprises hundreds of hydrolytic enzymes of the (beta/alpha)8 barrel fold with mono- or binuclear active-site metal centers, and a diverse spectrum of substrates and reactions. Promiscuous activities, or cross-reactivities, between different members of the same superfamily may provide important hints regarding evolutionary and mechanistic relationships. We examined three members: dihydroorotase (DHO), phosphotriesterase (PTE), and PTE-homology protein (PHP). Of particular interest are PTE, which is thought to have evolved within the last several decades, and PHP, an amidohydrolase superfamily member of unknown function, and the closest known homologue of PTE. We found a diverse and partially overlapping pattern of promiscuous activities in these enzymes, including a significant lactonase activity in PTE, esterase activities in both PTE and PHP, and a weak PTE activity in DHO. Directed evolution was applied to improve the promiscuous esterase activities of PTE and PHP. Remarkably, the most recurrent mutation increasing esterase activity in PTE, or PHP, maps to the same location in their superposed 3D structures. The evolved variants also exhibit newly acquired promiscuous activities that were not selected for, including very weak, yet measurable, paraoxonase activity in PHP. Our results illustrate the mechanistic, structural, and evolutionary links between these enzymes, and highlight the importance of studying laboratory evolution intermediates that might resemble node intermediates along the evolutionary pathways leading to the divergence of enzyme superfamilies.

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