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Protein Eng. 1997 Mar;10(3):237-48.

Stability of aspartate aminotransferase from Sulfolobus solfataricus.

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Dipartimento di Chimica Organica e Biologica, Università di Napoli, Federico II, Italy.


Aspartate aminotransferase from Sulfolobus solfataricus (SsAspAT) is an extremely thermophilic and thermostable dimeric enzyme which retains its structure and reaches maximal activity at 100 degrees C. The structural stability of this protein was investigated by coupling isothermally and thermally induced denaturation studies to molecular modeling. Gel filtration analysis indicated that SsAspAT unfolds with an N2 reversible 2D mechanism. In the molecular model, a cluster of hydrophobic residues was shown at the interface between the subunits of SsAspAT and suggested this cluster as a structural feature stabilizing the enzyme quaternary structure. At 25 degrees C, SsAspAT is less resistant to guanidinium chloride-induced denaturation than the cytosolic aspartate aminotransferase from pig heart (cpAspAT), which was chosen as a mesophilic counterpart in the thermodynamic analysis since it shares with SsAspAT the two-state unfolding mechanism. Therefore, in the case of aspartate aminotransferases, thermal stability does not correlate with the stability against chemical denaturants. Isothermal denaturation curves at 25 degrees C and melting profiles recorded in the presence of guanidinium chloride showed that the delta G degrees (H2O) at 25 degrees C of SsAspAT exceeds that of cpAspAT by roughly 15 kJ/mol; the parameter delta n, related to the number of binding sites for the denaturant differentially exposed in unfolded and folded states, is higher for SsAspAT than for cpAspAT; and delta Cp is lower for the thermophilic enzyme than for the mesophilic one by 8 kJ/K.mol. These results are indicative of a less hydrophobic core for SsAspAT than cpAspAT. In agreement with this, the molecular model predicts that some charged side chains are buried in SsAspAT and interact to form an H-bond/ion-pair network.

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