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Biochemistry. 1998 Apr 21;37(16):5372-82.

Methionine synthase exists in two distinct conformations that differ in reactivity toward methyltetrahydrofolate, adenosylmethionine, and flavodoxin.

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  • 1Biophysics Research Division, Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109-1055, USA.


Methionine synthase (MetH) from Escherichia coli catalyzes the synthesis of methionine from homocysteine and methyltetrahydrofolate via two methyl transfer reactions that are mediated by the endogenous cobalamin cofactor. After binding both substrates in a ternary complex, the enzyme transfers a methyl group from the methylcobalamin cofactor to homocysteine, generating cob(I)alamin enzyme and methionine. The enzyme then catalyzes methyl transfer from methyltetrahydrofolate to the cob(I)alamin cofactor, forming methylcobalamin cofactor and tetrahydrofolate prior to the release of both products. The cob(I)alamin form of the enzyme occasionally undergoes oxidation to an inactive cob(II)alamin species; the enzyme also catalyzes its own reactivation. Electron transfer from reduced flavodoxin to the cob(II)alamin cofactor is thought to generate cob(I)alamin enzyme, which is then trapped by methyl transfer from adenosylmethionine to the cobalt, restoring the enzyme to the active methylcobalamin form. Thus the enzyme is potentially able to catalyze two methyl transfers to the cob(I)alamin cofactor: methyl transfer from methyltetrahydrofolate during primary turnover and methyl transfer from adenosylmethionine during activation. It has recently been shown that methionine synthase is constructed from at least four separable regions that are responsible for binding each of the three substrates and the cobalamin cofactor, and it has been proposed that changes in positioning of the substrate binding regions vis-à-vis the cobalamin binding region could allow the enzyme to control which substrate has access to the cofactor. In this paper, we offer evidence that methionine synthase exists in two different conformations that interconvert in the cob(II)alamin oxidation state. In the primary turnover conformation, the enzyme reacts with homocysteine and methyltetrahydrofolate but is unreactive toward adenosylmethionine and flavodoxin. In the reactivation conformation, the enzyme is active toward adenosylmethionine and flavodoxin but unreactive toward methyltetrahydrofolate. The two conformations differ in the susceptibility of the substrate-binding regions to tryptic proteolysis. We propose a model in which conformational changes control access to the cobalamin cofactor and are the primary means of controlling cobalamin reactivity in methionine synthase.

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