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Biochemistry. 2013 Nov 5;52(44):7840-55. doi: 10.1021/bi401083b. Epub 2013 Oct 23.

Uncovering the determinants of a highly perturbed tyrosine pKa in the active site of ketosteroid isomerase.

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Department of Biochemistry and ‡Department of Chemistry, Stanford University , Stanford, California 94305, United States.


Within the idiosyncratic enzyme active-site environment, side chain and ligand pKa values can be profoundly perturbed relative to their values in aqueous solution. Whereas structural inspection of systems has often attributed perturbed pKa values to dominant contributions from placement near charged groups or within hydrophobic pockets, Tyr57 of a Pseudomonas putida ketosteroid isomerase (KSI) mutant, suggested to have a pKa perturbed by nearly 4 units to 6.3, is situated within a solvent-exposed active site devoid of cationic side chains, metal ions, or cofactors. Extensive comparisons among 45 variants with mutations in and around the KSI active site, along with protein semisynthesis, (13)C NMR spectroscopy, absorbance spectroscopy, and X-ray crystallography, was used to unravel the basis for this perturbed Tyr pKa. The results suggest that the origin of large energetic perturbations are more complex than suggested by visual inspection. For example, the introduction of positively charged residues near Tyr57 raises its pKa rather than lowers it; this effect, and part of the increase in the Tyr pKa from the introduction of nearby anionic groups, arises from accompanying active-site structural rearrangements. Other mutations with large effects also cause structural perturbations or appear to displace a structured water molecule that is part of a stabilizing hydrogen-bond network. Our results lead to a model in which three hydrogen bonds are donated to the stabilized ionized Tyr, with these hydrogen-bond donors, two Tyr side chains, and a water molecule positioned by other side chains and by a water-mediated hydrogen-bond network. These results support the notion that large energetic effects are often the consequence of multiple stabilizing interactions rather than a single dominant interaction. Most generally, this work provides a case study for how extensive and comprehensive comparisons via site-directed mutagenesis in a tight feedback loop with structural analysis can greatly facilitate our understanding of enzyme active-site energetics. The extensive data set provided may also be a valuable resource for those wishing to extensively test computational approaches for determining enzymatic pKa values and energetic effects.

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