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J Biol Chem. 1996 Sep 6;271(36):22159-68.

Protein splicing involving the Saccharomyces cerevisiae VMA intein. The steps in the splicing pathway, side reactions leading to protein cleavage, and establishment of an in vitro splicing system.

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New England Biolabs, Beverly, Massachusetts 01915, USA.


Protein splicing involves the excision of an internal protein segment, the intein, from a precursor protein and the concomitant ligation of the flanking N- and C-terminal regions. It occurs in mesophilic bacteria, yeast, and thermophilic archaea. The ability to control protein splicing of a thermophilic intein by temperature and pH in a foreign protein context facilitated the study of the mechanism of protein splicing in thermophiles. On the other hand, no direct studies have been done on the mechanism of protein splicing in mesophiles. We examined the splicing of a chimeric protein containing the intein of the vacuolar ATPase subunit (VMA) of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that involves cysteines rather than serines at the reaction center. The steps in the splicing process were deduced by analyzing intermediates and side products that accumulated as a result of amino acid substitutions and were found to be analogous to those occurring in thermophiles. Moreover, appropriate amino acid replacements allowed us to develop the first mesophilic in vitro protein splicing system as well as strategies for modulating the rate of protein splicing and for converting the splicing reaction to an efficient protein cleavage reaction at either splice junction.

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