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J Biol Chem. 2011 Mar 4;286(9):7267-78. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.172213. Epub 2010 Oct 26.

Novel insight into the mechanism of the vitamin K oxidoreductase (VKOR): electron relay through Cys43 and Cys51 reduces VKOR to allow vitamin K reduction and facilitation of vitamin K-dependent protein carboxylation.

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Department of Molecular Cardiology, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.


The vitamin K oxidoreductase (VKOR) reduces vitamin K to support the carboxylation and consequent activation of vitamin K-dependent proteins, but the mechanism of reduction is poorly understood. VKOR is an integral membrane protein that reduces vitamin K using membrane-embedded thiols (Cys-132 and Cys-135), which become oxidized with concomitant VKOR inactivation. VKOR is subsequently reactivated by an unknown redox protein that is currently thought to act directly on the Cys132-Cys135 residues. However, VKOR contains evolutionarily conserved Cys residues (Cys-43 and Cys-51) that reside in a loop outside of the membrane, raising the question of whether they mediate electron transfer from a redox protein to Cys-132/Cys-135. To assess a possible role, the activities of mutants with Ala substituted for Cys (C43A and C51A) were analyzed in intact membranes using reductants that were either membrane-permeable or -impermeable. Both reductants resulted in wild type VKOR reduction of vitamin K epoxide; however, the C43A and C51A mutants only showed activity with the membrane-permeant reductant. We obtained similar results when testing the ability of wild type and mutant VKORs to support carboxylation, using intact membranes from cells coexpressing VKOR and carboxylase. These results indicate a role for Cys-43 and Cys-51 in catalysis, suggesting a relay mechanism in which a redox protein transfers electrons to these loop residues, which in turn reduce the membrane-embedded Cys132-Cys135 disulfide bond to activate VKOR. The results have implications for the mechanism of warfarin resistance, the topology of VKOR in the membrane, and the interaction of VKOR with the carboxylase.

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