Triggering of allostery in an enzyme by a point mutation: ornithine transcarbamoylase

Science  04 Aug 1989:
Vol. 245, Issue 4917, pp. 522-524
DOI: 10.1126/science.2667139


The origin of allostery is an unanswered question in the evolution of complex regulatory proteins. Anabolic ornithine transcarbamoylase, a trimer of identical subunits, is not an allosteric enzyme per se. However, when the active-site residue arginine-106 of the Escherichia coli enzyme is replaced with a glycine through site-directed mutagenesis, the resultant mutant enzyme manifests substrate cooperativity that is absent in the wild-type enzyme. Both homotropic and heterotropic interactions occur in the mutant enzyme. The initial velocity saturation curves of the substrates, carbamoyl phosphate and L-ornithine, conform to the Hill equation. The observed cooperativity depends on substrate but not enzyme concentration. The finding underscores the possibility that a single mutation of the enzyme in the cell could turn transcarbamoylation into a regulatory junction in the biosynthesis of L-arginine and urea.