The mechanism of the enzyme benzoylformate decarboxylase (BFDC), which carries out a typical thiamin diphosphate (ThDP)-dependent nonoxidative decarboxylation reaction, was studied with the chromophoric alternate substrate (E)-2-oxo-4(pyridin-3-yl)-3-butenoic acid (3-PKB). Addition of 3-PKB resulted in the appearance of two transient intermediates formed consecutively, the first one to be formed a predecarboxylation ThDP-bound intermediate with λ max at 477 nm, and the second one corresponding to the first postdecarboxylation intermediate the enamine with λ max at 437 nm. The time course of formation/ depletion of the PKB - ThDP covalent complex and of the enamine showed that decarboxylation was slower than formation of the PKB - ThDP covalent adduct. When the product of decarboxylation 3-(pyridin-3-yl)acrylaldehyde (PAA) was added to BFDC, again an absorbance with λ max at 473 nm was formed, corresponding to the tetrahedral adduct of PAA with ThDP. Addition of well-formed crystals of BFDC to a solution of PAA resulted in a high resolution (1.34 Å) structure of the BFDC-bound adduct of ThDP with PAA confirming the tetrahedral nature at the C2α atom, rather than of the enamine, and supporting the assignment of the λ max at 473 nm to the PAA - ThDP adduct. The structure of the PAA - ThDP covalent complex is the first example of a product - ThDP adduct on BFDC. Similar studies with 3-PKB indicated that decarboxylation had taken place. Evidence was also obtained for the slow formation of the enamine intermediate when BFDC was incubated with benzaldehyde, the product of the decarboxylation reaction thus confirming its presence on the reaction pathway.
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