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Biochemistry. 1998 Oct 20;37(42):14917-27.

Definition of the redox states of cobalt-precorrinoids: investigation of the substrate and redox specificity of CbiL from Salmonella typhimurium.

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Department of Chemistry, Texas A and M University, College Station 77843-3255, USA.


The enzyme CbiL from the facultative anaerobe Salmonella typhimurium exhibits a high degree of homology to CobI from the aerobe Pseudomonas denitrificans (29% identity; 51% conservation obtained by a Blastp search of the ncbi database). As CobI catalyzes the third methylation in the aerobic pathway to vitamin B12 it is proposed that CbiL catalyzes the analogous step in the anaerobic pathway. Potential metallo and metal-free substrates were characterized and their redox states defined by a combination of physicochemical techniques (MALDI-MS, NMR, UV/vis, IR, and EPR) and then used to investigate the function of CbiL. CbiL exhibited an absolute requirement for the presence of a metal ion (Co(II), Ni(II), or Zn(II)) within the tetrapyrrole substrate. CbiL had no preference for the redox state of its cobalt tetrapyrrole substrate, methylating both the reduced form, Co(II) 2, 7-dimethyl-dipyrrocorphin (Co(II)-precorrin-2), and the oxidized form, Co(III) 2,7-dimethyl-isobacterioclorin (Co(III)-factor-II). In contrast CbiL had a marked preference for the oxidized Ni(II) and Zn(II)-2,7-dimethyl-isobacteriochlorin (Ni(II) and Zn(II)-factor-II). Removal of the metal ion from a product of CbiL (Zn(II)-factor-III) allowed characterization by 13C NMR, identifying the tetrapyrrole as 2,7,20-trimethyl-isobacteriochlorin (factor-3), indicating that CbiL methylates at C20, the same site as that methylated by CobI. Competition experiments, utilizing isotopic labeling to distinguish otherwise identical mass substrates and products, revealed that oxidized Co(III) or Ni(II)-factor-II were equally good substrates, whereas Co(II)-precorrin-2 was much preferred over Ni(II)-precorrin-2. Excess Ni(II)-precorrin-2 did not decrease CbiL methylation of Co(II)-precorrin-2, implying that CbiL has a low affinity for Ni(II)-precorrin-2. These results are interpreted on the basis of tetrapyrrole ruffling occurring on the optimization of the metallo-N bond distances. The greater flexibility of the reduced precorrin-2 ring system allows greater deformation on accommodating the bound metal ion, the distortions imposed by bound Ni(II) or Zn(II) ions being larger than Co(II). The resulting distortions imposed on the precorrin ring could then decrease catalysis by causing a departure from the optimal substrate conformation required for CbiL. On oxidation of the Ni(II) or Zn(II)-precorrin-2, the increased stiffness of the ring could then constrain the metallo-factor-II conformation toward that of the usual substrate, allowing greater methylation by CbiL. In contrast to its counterpart CobI in the aerobic pathway of B12 biosynthesis, which methylates the metal-free precorrin-2, these studies show CbiL to be the first methylase unique to the anaerobic pathway, methylating a metallo-precorrin-2 substrate. Implications of CbiL specificity for the mechanism of the anaerobic B12 pathway are discussed.

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