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Biochemistry. 1988 Jul 26;27(15):5525-30.

Tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase acts as an asymmetric dimer in charging tRNA. A rationale for half-of-the-sites activity.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Imperial College of Science & Technology, London, U.K.


Tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase from Bacillus stearothermophilus is a classical example of an enzyme with half-of-the-sites activity. The enzyme crystallizes as a symmetrical dimer that is composed of identical subunits, each having a complete active site. In solution, however, tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase binds tightly, and activates rapidly, only 1 mol of Tyr/mol of dimer. It has recently been shown that the half-of-the-sites activity results from an inherent asymmetry of the enzyme. Only one subunit catalyzes formation of Tyr-AMP, and interchange of activity between subunits is not detectable over a long time scale. Paradoxically, however, the kinetics of tRNA charging are biphasic with respect to [Tyr], suggesting that both subunits of the dimer are catalytically active. This paradox has now been resolved by kinetic analysis of heterodimeric enzymes containing different mutations in each subunit. Biphasic kinetics with unchanged values of KM for Tyr are maintained when one of the two tRNA-binding domains is removed and also when the affinity of the "inactive" site for Try is reduced by 2-58-fold. The biphasic kinetics do not result from catalysis at both active sites, but instead appear to result from two molecules of Tyr binding sequentially to the same site. A second molecule of Tyr perhaps aids the dissociation of Tyr-tRNA by displacing the tyrosyl moiety from its binding site. A monomer of the enzyme is probably too small to allow both recognition and aminoacylation of a tRNA molecule. This could explain the requirement for the enzyme to function as an asymmetric dimer.

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