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J Biol Chem. 1995 Jun 9;270(23):14031-41.

Glutathionylspermidine metabolism in Escherichia coli. Purification, cloning, overproduction, and characterization of a bifunctional glutathionylspermidine synthetase/amidase.

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Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Glutathionylspermidine (GSP) synthetases of Trypanosomatidae and Escherichia coli couple hydrolysis of ATP (to ADP and Pi) with formation of an amide bond between spermidine (N-(3-aminopropyl)-1,4-diaminobutane) and the glycine carboxylate of glutathione (gamma-Glu-Cys-Gly). In the pathogenic trypanosomatids, this reaction is the penultimate step in the biosynthesis of the antioxidant metabolite, trypanothione (N1,N8-bis-(glutathionyl)spermidine), and is a target for drug design. In this study, GSP synthetase was purified to near homogeneity from E. coli B, the gene encoding it was isolated and sequenced, the enzyme was overexpressed and purified in quantity, and the recombinant enzyme was characterized. The 70-kDa protein was found to have an unexpected second catalytic activity, glutathionylspermidine amide bond hydrolysis. Thus, the bifunctional GSP synthetase/amidase catalyzes opposing amide bond-forming and -cleaving reactions, with net hydrolysis of ATP. The synthetase activity is selectively abrogated by proteolytic cleavage 81 residues from the C terminus, suggesting that the two activities reside in distinct domains (N-terminal amidase and C-terminal synthetase). Proteolysis at this site is facile in the absence of substrates, but is inhibited in the presence of ATP, glutathione, and Mg2+. A series of analogs was used to probe the spermidine-binding site of the synthetase activity. The activity of diaminopropane as a substrate, inactivity of the C4-C8 diaminoalkanes, and greater loss of specificity for analogs modified in the 3-aminopropyl moiety than for those modified in the 4-aminobutyl moiety indicate that the enzyme recognizes predominantly the diaminopropane portion of spermidine and corroborate N-1 (the aminopropyl N) as the site of glutathione linkage (Tabor, H. and Tabor, C. W. (1975) J. Biol. Chem. 250, 2648-2654). Trends in Km and kcat for a set of difluorosubstituted spermidine derivatives suggest that the enzyme may bind the minor, deprotonated form of the amine nucleophile.

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