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J Mol Biol. 2009 Feb 13;386(1):60-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.11.046. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

The zinc center influences the redox and thermodynamic properties of Escherichia coli thioredoxin 2.

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de Duve Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium.


Thioredoxins are small, ubiquitous redox enzymes that reduce protein disulfide bonds by using a pair of cysteine residues present in a strictly conserved WCGPC catalytic motif. The Escherichia coli cytoplasm contains two thioredoxins, Trx1 and Trx2. Trx2 is special because it is induced under oxidative stress conditions and it has an additional N-terminal zinc-binding domain. We have determined the redox potential of Trx2, the pK(a) of the active site nucleophilic cysteine, as well as the stability of the oxidized and reduced form of the protein. Trx2 is more oxidizing than Trx1 (-221 mV versus -284 mV, respectively), which is in good agreement with the decreased value of the pK(a) of the nucleophilic cysteine (5.1 versus 7.1, respectively). The difference in stability between the oxidized and reduced forms of an oxidoreductase is the driving force to reduce substrate proteins. This difference is smaller for Trx2 (DeltaDeltaG degrees(H2O)=9 kJ/mol and DeltaT(m)=7. 4 degrees C) than for Trx1 (DeltaDeltaG degrees(H2O)=15 kJ/mol and DeltaT(m)=13 degrees C). Altogether, our data indicate that Trx2 is a significantly less reducing enzyme than Trx1, which suggests that Trx2 has a distinctive function. We disrupted the zinc center by mutating the four Zn(2+)-binding cysteines to serine. This mutant has a more reducing redox potential (-254 mV) and the pK(a) of its nucleophilic cysteine shifts from 5.1 to 7.1. The removal of Zn(2+) also decreases the overall stability of the reduced and oxidized forms by 3.2 kJ/mol and 5.8 kJ/mol, respectively. In conclusion, our data show that the Zn(2+)-center of Trx2 fine-tunes the properties of this unique thioredoxin.

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