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Biochemistry. 2013 Dec 23;52(51):9167-76. doi: 10.1021/bi4010045. Epub 2013 Dec 11.

Site-directed mutagenesis maps interactions that enhance cognate and limit promiscuous catalysis by an alkaline phosphatase superfamily phosphodiesterase.

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Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University , Stanford, California 94305, United States.


Catalytic promiscuity, an evolutionary concept, also provides a powerful tool for gaining mechanistic insights into enzymatic reactions. Members of the alkaline phosphatase (AP) superfamily are highly amenable to such investigation, with several members having been shown to exhibit promiscuous activity for the cognate reactions of other superfamily members. Previous work has shown that nucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase (NPP) exhibits a >10⁶-fold preference for the hydrolysis of phosphate diesters over phosphate monoesters, and that the reaction specificity is reduced 10³-fold when the size of the substituent on the transferred phosphoryl group of phosphate diester substrates is reduced to a methyl group. Here we show additional specificity contributions from the binding pocket for this substituent (herein termed the R' substituent) that account for an additional ~250-fold differential specificity with the minimal methyl substituent. Removal of four hydrophobic side chains suggested on the basis of structural inspection to interact favorably with R' substituents decreases phosphate diester reactivity 10⁴-fold with an optimal diester substrate (R' = 5'-deoxythymidine) and 50-fold with a minimal diester substrate (R' = CH₃). These mutations also enhance the enzyme's promiscuous phosphate monoesterase activity by nearly an order of magnitude, an effect that is traced by mutation to the reduction of unfavorable interactions with the two residues closest to the nonbridging phosphoryl oxygen atoms. The quadruple R' pocket mutant exhibits the same activity toward phosphate diester and phosphate monoester substrates that have identical leaving groups, with substantial rate enhancements of ~10¹¹-fold. This observation suggests that the Zn²⁺ bimetallo core of AP superfamily enzymes, which is equipotent in phosphate monoester and diester catalysis, has the potential to become specialized for the hydrolysis of each class of phosphate esters via addition of side chains that interact with the substrate atoms and substituents that project away from the Zn²⁺ bimetallo core.

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