Both solution and crystallographic studies suggest that the 4′-aminopyrimidine ring of the thiamin diphosphate coenzyme participates in catalysis, likely as an intramolecular general acid-base catalyst via the unusual 1′,4′-iminopyrimidine tautomer. It is indeed uncommon for a coenzyme to be identified in its rare tautomeric form on its reaction pathways, yet this has been possible with thiamin diphosphate, in some cases even in the absence of substrate [Nemeria, N., Chakraborty, S., Baykal, A., Korotchkina, L., Patel, M. S., and Jordan, F. (2007) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104, 78-82.]. The ability to detect both the aminopyrimidine and iminopyrimidine tautomeric forms of thiamin diphosphate on enzymes has enabled us to assign the predominant tautomeric form present in individual intermediates on the pathway. Herein, we report the pH dependence of these tautomeric forms providing the first data for the internal thermodynamic equilibria on thiamin diphosphate enzymes for the various ionization and tautomeric forms of this coenzyme on four enzymes: benzaldehyde lyase, benzoylformate decarboxylase, pyruvate oxidase, and the E1 component of the human pyruvate dehydrogenase multienzyme complex. Evidence is provided for an important function of the enzyme environment in altering both the ionization and tautomeric equilibria on the coenzyme even prior to addition of substrate. The pKa for the 4′-aminopyrimidiniurn moiety coincides with the pH for optimum activity thereby ensuring that all ionization states and tautomeric states are accessible during the catalytic cycle. The dramatic influence of the protein on the internal equilibria also points to conditions under which the long-elusive ylide intermediate could be stabilized.
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