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Structure. 1996 Mar 15;4(3):339-50.

How coenzyme B12 radicals are generated: the crystal structure of methylmalonyl-coenzyme A mutase at 2 A resolution.

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  • 1MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, UK.



The enzyme methylmalonyl-coenzyme A (CoA) mutase, an alphabeta heterodimer of 150 kDa, is a member of a class of enzymes that uses coenzyme B12 (adenosylcobalamin) as a cofactor. The enzyme induces the formation of an adenosyl radical from the cofactor. This radical then initiates a free-radical rearrangement of its substrate, succinyl-CoA, to methylmalonyl-CoA.


Reported here is the crystal structure at 2 A resolution of methylmalonyl-CoA mutase from Propionibacterium shermanii in complex with coenzyme B12 and with the partial substrate desulpho-CoA (lacking the succinyl group and the sulphur atom of the substrate). The coenzyme is bound by a domain which shares a similar fold to those of flavodoxin and the B12-binding domain of methylcobalamin-dependent methionine synthase. The cobalt atom is coordinated, via a long bond, to a histidine from the protein. The partial substrate is bound along the axis of a (beta/alpha)8 TIM barrel domain.


The histidine-cobalt distance is very long (2.5 A compared with 1.95-2.2 A in free cobalamins), suggesting that the enzyme positions the histidine in order to weaken the metal-carbon bond of the cofactor and favour the formation of the initial radical species. The active site is deeply buried, and the only access to it is through a narrow tunnel along the axis of the TIM barrel domain.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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