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Structure. 1994 Apr 15;2(4):283-91.

Crystal structure of Aeromonas proteolytica aminopeptidase: a prototypical member of the co-catalytic zinc enzyme family.

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Laboratoire de Biologie Structurale, Institut de Biologie Mol├ęculaire et Cellulaire, Strasbourg, France.



Aminopeptidases specifically cleave the amino-terminal residue from polypeptide chains and are involved in the metabolism of biologically active peptides. The family includes zinc-dependent enzymes possessing either one or two zinc ions per active site. Structural studies providing a detailed view of the metal environment may reveal whether the one-zinc and two-zinc enzymes constitute structurally and mechanistically distinct subclasses, and what role the metal ions play in the catalytic process.


We have solved the crystal structure of the monomeric aminopeptidase from Aeromonas proteolytica at 1.8 A resolution. The protein is folded into a single alpha/beta globular domain. The active site contains two zinc ions (3.5 A apart) with shared ligands and symmetrical coordination spheres. We have compared it with the related bovine lens leucine aminopeptidase and the cobalt-containing Escherichia coli methionine aminopeptidase.


The environment and coordination of the two zinc ions in A. proteolytica aminopeptidase strongly support the view that the two metal ions constitute a co-catalytic unit and play equivalent roles during catalysis. This conflicts with the conclusions drawn from the related bovine leucine aminopeptidase and early biochemical studies. In addition, the known specificity of the aminopeptidase for hydrophobic amino-terminal residues is reflected in the hydrophobicity of the active site cleft.

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