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Biochemistry. 2014 May 13;53(18):2915-25. doi: 10.1021/bi500246z. Epub 2014 Apr 22.

Mechanistic and bioinformatic investigation of a conserved active site helix in α-isopropylmalate synthase from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a member of the DRE-TIM metallolyase superfamily.

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Department of Chemistry, The University of Alabama , 250 Hackberry Lane, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35406, United States.


The characterization of functionally diverse enzyme superfamilies provides the opportunity to identify evolutionarily conserved catalytic strategies, as well as amino acid substitutions responsible for the evolution of new functions or specificities. Isopropylmalate synthase (IPMS) belongs to the DRE-TIM metallolyase superfamily. Members of this superfamily share common active site elements, including a conserved active site helix and an HXH divalent metal binding motif, associated with stabilization of a common enolate anion intermediate. These common elements are overlaid by variations in active site architecture resulting in the evolution of a diverse set of reactions that include condensation, lyase/aldolase, and carboxyl transfer activities. Here, using IPMS, an integrated biochemical and bioinformatics approach has been utilized to investigate the catalytic role of residues on an active site helix that is conserved across the superfamily. The construction of a sequence similarity network for the DRE-TIM metallolyase superfamily allows for the biochemical results obtained with IPMS variants to be compared across superfamily members and within other condensation-catalyzing enzymes related to IPMS. A comparison of our results with previous biochemical data indicates an active site arginine residue (R80 in IPMS) is strictly required for activity across the superfamily, suggesting that it plays a key role in catalysis, most likely through enolate stabilization. In contrast, differential results obtained from substitution of the C-terminal residue of the helix (Q84 in IPMS) suggest that this residue plays a role in reaction specificity within the superfamily.

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