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Protein Sci. 2012 Jun;21(6):839-49. doi: 10.1002/pro.2068. Epub 2012 Apr 23.

Active site residues critical for flavin binding and 5,6-dimethylbenzimidazole biosynthesis in the flavin destructase enzyme BluB.

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Department of Plant & Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3102, USA.


The "flavin destructase" enzyme BluB catalyzes the unprecedented conversion of flavin mononucleotide (FMN) to 5,6-dimethylbenzimidazole (DMB), a component of vitamin B(12). Because of its unusual chemistry, the mechanism of this transformation has remained elusive. This study reports the identification of 12 mutant forms of BluB that have severely reduced catalytic function, though most retain the ability to bind flavin. The "flavin destructase" BluB is an unusual enzyme that fragments the flavin cofactor FMNH(2) in the presence of oxygen to produce 5,6-dimethylbenzimidazole (DMB), the lower axial ligand of vitamin B(12) (cobalamin). Despite the similarities in sequence and structure between BluB and the nitroreductase and flavin oxidoreductase enzyme families, BluB is the only enzyme known to fragment a flavin isoalloxazine ring. To explore the catalytic residues involved in this unusual reaction, mutants of BluB impaired in DMB biosynthesis were identified in a genetic screen in the bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti. Of the 16 unique point mutations identified in the screen, the majority were located in conserved residues in the active site or in the unique "lid" domain proposed to shield the active site from solvent. Steady-state enzyme assays of 12 purified mutant proteins showed a significant reduction in DMB synthesis in all of the mutants, with eight completely defective in DMB production. Ten of these mutants have weaker binding affinities for both oxidized and reduced FMN, though only two have a significant effect on complex stability. These results implicate several conserved residues in BluB's unique ability to fragment FMNH(2) and demonstrate the sensitivity of BluB's active site to structural perturbations. This work lays the foundation for mechanistic studies of this enzyme and further advances our understanding of the structure-function relationship of BluB.

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