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Chem Biol. 1997 Nov;4(11):859-66.

Aldehyde and phosphinate analogs of glutathione and glutathionylspermidine: potent, selective binding inhibitors of the E. coli bifunctional glutathionylspermidine synthetase/amidase.

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Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, 240 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



The tripeptide glutathione is converted to glutathionylspermidine (Gsp) in Escherichia coli and in trypanosomatid parasites by an ATP-cleaving Gsp synthetase activity. In parasites, an additional glutathionylation forms bis-(glutathionyl)-spermidine, trypanothione, believed to be the major surveillance thiol involved in oxidant defense mechanisms in trypanosomatid parasites. In E. coli, the Gsp synthetase is part of a bifunctional enzyme opposed by the hydrolytic Gsp amidase.


Gsp amidase and Gsp synthetase activities of the bifunctional E. coli enzyme can be separately targeted by potent, selective slow-binding inhibitors that induce time-dependent inhibition. The inhibitor gamma-Glu-Ala-Gly.CHO most probably captures Cys59 and accumulates as the tetrahedral adduct in the amidase active site. Inhibitory Gsp phosphinate analogs are phosphorylated by ATP to yield phosphinophosphate analogs in the synthetase active site. Binding of phosphinophosphate in the Gsp synthetase active site potentiates the inhibition affinity for the aldehyde at the Gsp amidase active site by two orders of magnitude.


Time-dependent inhibition of the Gsp amidase activity by the aldehyde substrate analog supports previous work that suggests glutathionyl acyl-enzyme intermediate formation in the Gsp amidase reaction mechanism. Use of potent selective inhibitors against Gsp amidase (aldehyde) and Gsp synthetase (phosphinate) activities provides further evidence of interdomain communication in the bifunctional enzyme from E. coli.

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