The residue C221 on pyruvate decarboxylase (EC. 184.108.40.206) from Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been shown to be the site where the substrate activation cascade is triggered [Baburina et al. (1994) Biochemistry 33, 5630-5635] and is located on the β domain [Arjunan et al. (1996) J. Mol. Biol. 256, 590], while the active-center thiamin diphosphate is located > 20 Å away, at the interface of the α and γ domains. The reactivity of all three exposed cysteines (152, 221, and 222) was examined under the influence of known activators and inhibitors. Protein chemical methods, in conjunction with [1-14C] and [3-3H] analogues of the mechanism-based inhibitor p- ClC6H4CH=CHCOCOOH, demonstrated that the holoenzyme bound approximately 2- 3 atoms of tritium/atom of C-14. However, when the labeled enzyme was subjected to trypsinization, followed by sequencing of the labeled peptide, only the tritium label was in evidence at C221, with a stoichiometry of 2 atoms of tritium/tetrameric holoenzyme. Apparently, the product of decarboxylation bonded to the enzyme survived the limited proteolysis and sequencing, but the bound 2-oxoacid was released during the protocol. Surprisingly, the C221S or C222A variants, although they still possess 20- 30% specific activity compared to the wild-type enzyme, could still be inhibited by the XC6H4CH=CHCOCOOH class of inhibitors/substrate analogues, as well as by the product of decarboxylation from such compounds, cinnamaldehydes. Other potential nucleophilic sites for the inhibitor [C152 (the third exposed cysteine), residues D28, H114, H115, and E477 at the active center and H92 at the regulatory site] were also substituted by a nonnucleophilic side chain. All variants were still subject to inhibition by p-ClC6H4CH=CHCOCOOH, the active-center variants being inactivated even faster than the wild-type enzyme, suggesting that the active center is involved in the inactivation process. It appears that C221 is one of only two sites of interaction with such compounds (perhaps the result of a Michael addition across the C=C bond), yet the bound [1-14C]-labeled inhibitor could no longer be detected after peptide mapping at this site or at the catalytic site. Upon combining the tritiated inhibitor with [2-14C]- thiamin diphosphate, no evidence could be found for a thiamin-inhibitor- protein ternary complex, suggesting that the thiamin-bound enamine intermediate did not react further with the protein. It is likely that the second form of inhibition is at the active center, with the inhibitor cofactor-bound, which would have been released during the proteolytic protocol. Among other known activators, ketomalonate was found to react at C221 only. Glyoxalic acid, a mechanism-based inhibitor, on the other hand, could react at both the regulatory and the catalytic center. The high reactivity of C221 is consistent with it being in the thiolate form at the optimal pH of the enzyme [forming a Cys221S-+HHis92 ion pair; see Baburina et al. (1996) Biochemistry 35, 10249-10255, and Baburina et al. (1998) Biochemistry 37, 1235-1244]. Several additional compounds were tested as potential regulatory site-directed reagents: iodoacetate, 1,3- dibromoacetone, and 1-bromo-2-butanone. All three compounds reduced the Hill coefficient and hence appear to react at C221. It was concluded that either substitution of C221 by a nonnucleophilic residue or large groups attached to C221 in the wild-type enzyme lead to a distortion of domain interactions, interactions which are required for both optimal activity and substrate activation.
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