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Arch Biochem Biophys. 1996 Sep 1;333(1):85-95.

Recombinant human phenylalanine hydroxylase: novel regulatory and structural properties.

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Laboratory of Neurochemistry, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Recombinant human liver phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) expressed in Escherichia coli has been purified to homogeneity. The recombinant enzyme exists in solution as a mixture of 80% tetramers and 20% dimers. A study of the kinetic properties of the enzyme indicates that compared to the recombinant and the native rat liver enzymes, the recombinant human enzyme is in an activated state. This conclusion is supported by the finding that its catalytic activity is only marginally stimulated by incubation with either phenylalanine or lysolecithin. In contrast, the native and the recombinant rat liver enzymes are activated 8- to 25-fold, respectively, when preincubated with phenylalanine or lysolecithin. In the absence of activators, the ratio of the hydroxylase activity in the presence of 6-methyl-5,6,7,8-tetrahydropterin compared to the activity in the presence of (6R)-5,6,7,8-tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), which is an index of the state of activation of the enzyme, is 4 for the human recombinant PAH compared to a value of 12 for the recombinant rat liver enzyme. Furthermore, the Km for phenylalanine in the presence of BH4 is 0.050 mM, a value that is one-fifth that of the recombinant rat liver enzyme. Covalent modification of the human enzyme by phosphorylation with protein kinase A provides further evidence that the human enzyme is in a substantially activated state. Phosphorylation, which results in the incorporation of 0.6 mol of phosphate/mol of subunit, leads to only a modest activation of 1.5-fold compared to about a 3-fold activation seen after phosphorylation of the native and the recombinant rat liver enzymes. Moreover, the recombinant human liver enzyme is less sensitive than the rat liver enzyme to stimulation by lysolecithin when tryptophan is the substrate. Just as is true for the rat liver enzyme, the apparent Km values for tryptophan and pheylalanine vary with the pterin cofactor employed. The ability of 7-tetrahydrobiopterin (7-BH4) to substitute for the natural cofactor tetrahydrobiopterin has been studied in vitro. The apparent Km for 7-BH4 for the recombinant human enzyme is 0.2 mM and the Km for phenylalanine is 0.05 mM. The hydroxylase reaction is severely inhibited by 7-BH4 in the presence of physiological concentrations of BH4. This inhibition can be overcome by a decrease in the concentration of phenylalanine. The implications of these novel properties of human PAH for phenylalanine homoestasis in man are discussed.

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