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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Nov;1814(11):1467-73. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2010.12.015. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

Molecular enzymology of 5-aminolevulinate synthase, the gatekeeper of heme biosynthesis.

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Department of Molecular Medicine, College of Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33612-4799, USA.


Pyridoxal-5'-phosphate (PLP) is an obligatory cofactor for the homodimeric mitochondrial enzyme 5-aminolevulinate synthase (ALAS), which controls metabolic flux into the porphyrin biosynthetic pathway in animals, fungi, and the α-subclass of proteobacteria. Recent work has provided an explanation for how this enzyme can utilize PLP to catalyze the mechanistically unusual cleavage of not one but two substrate amino acid α-carbon bonds, without violating the theory of stereoelectronic control of PLP reaction-type specificity. Ironically, the complex chemistry is kinetically insignificant, and it is the movement of an active site loop that defines k(cat) and ultimately, the rate of porphyrin biosynthesis. The kinetic behavior of the enzyme is consistent with an equilibrium ordered induced-fit mechanism wherein glycine must bind first and a portion of the intrinsic binding energy with succinyl-Coenzyme A is then utilized to perturb the enzyme conformational equilibrium towards a closed state wherein catalysis occurs. Return to the open conformation, coincident with ALA dissociation, is the slowest step of the reaction cycle. A diverse variety of loop mutations have been associated with hyperactivity, suggesting the enzyme has evolved to be purposefully slow, perhaps as a means to allow for rapid up-regulation of activity in response to an as yet undiscovered allosteric type effector. Recently it was discovered that human erythroid ALAS mutations can be associated with two very different diseases. Mutations that down-regulate activity can lead to X-linked sideroblastic anemia, which is characterized by abnormally high iron levels in mitochondria, while mutations that up-regulate activity are associated with X-linked dominant protoporphyria, which in contrast is phenotypically identified by abnormally high porphyrin levels. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Pyridoxal Phosphate Enzymology.

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