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J Mol Biol. 1997 Jan 31;265(4):432-44.

The structure of the complex between rubisco and its natural substrate ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala.


The three-dimensional structure of the complex of ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (rubisco; EC from spinach with its natural substrate ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP) has been determined both under activating and non-activating conditions by X-ray crystallography to a resolution of 2.1 A and 2.4 A, respectively. Under activating conditions, the use of calcium instead of magnesium as the activator metal ion enabled us to trap the substrate in a stable complex for crystallographic analysis. Comparison of the structure of the activated and the non-activated RuBP complexes shows a tighter binding for the substrate in the non-activated form of the enzyme, in line with previous solution studies. In the non-activated complex, the substrate triggers isolation of the active site by inducing movements of flexible loop regions of the catalytic subunits. In contrast, in the activated complex the active site remains partly open, probably awaiting the binding of the gaseous substrate. By inspection of the structures and by comparison with other complexes of the enzyme we were able to identify a network of hydrogen bonds that stabilise a closed active site structure during crucial steps in the reaction. The present structure underlines the central role of the carbamylated lysine 201 in both activation and catalysis, and completes available structural information for our proposal on the mechanism of the enzyme.

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