Molecular Basis of the General Base Catalysis of an {alpha}/{beta}-Hydrolase Catalytic Triad [Protein Structure and Folding]

April 15th, 2014 by Sun, Y., Yin, S., Feng, Y., Li, J., Zhou, J., Liu, C., Zhu, G., Guo, Z.

The serine-histidine-aspartate triad is well known for its covalent, nucleophilic catalysis in a diverse array of enzymatic transformations. Here we show that its nucleophilicity is shielded and its catalytic role is limited to be a specific general base by an open-closed conformational change in the catalysis of 2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2, 4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate synthase (or MenH), a typical α/β-hydrolase fold enzyme in the vitamin K biosynthetic pathway. This enzyme is found to adopt an open conformation without a functional triad in its ligand-free form and a closed conformation with a fully functional catalytic triad in the presence of its reaction product. The open-to-closed conformational transition involves movement of a half of the α-helical cap domain, which causes extensive structural changes in the α/β-domain and forces the side chain of the triad histidine to adopt an energetically disfavored gauche-conformation to form the functional triad. NMR analysis shows that the inactive, open conformation without a triad prevails in ligand-free solution and is converted to the closed conformation with a properly formed triad by the reaction product. Mutation of the residues crucial to this open-closed transition either greatly decreases or completely eliminates the enzyme activity, supporting an important catalytic role for the structural change. These findings suggest that the open-closed conformational change tightly couple formation of the catalytic triad to substrate binding to enhance the substrate specificities and simultaneously shield the triad off its nucelophilicity, thus allowing it to expand its catalytic power beyond the nucleophilic catalysis.