Research Articles

Engineering enzyme specificity by "substrate-assisted catalysis"

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Science  24 Jul 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4813, pp. 394-399
DOI: 10.1126/science.3299704


A novel approach to engineering enzyme specificity is presented in which a catalytic group from an enzyme is first removed by site-directed mutagenesis causing inactivation. Activity is then partially restored by substrates containing the missing catalytic functional group. Replacement of the catalytic His with Ala in the Bacillus amyloliquefaciens subtilisin gene (the mutant is designated His64Ala) by site-directed mutagenesis reduces the catalytic efficiency (kcat/Km) by a factor of a million when assayed with N-succinyl-L-Phe-L-Ala-L-Ala-L-Phe-p-nitroanilide (sFAAF-pNA). Model building studies showed that a His side chain at the P2 position of a substrate bound at the active site of subtilisin could be virtually superimposed on the catalytic His side chain of this serine protease. Accordingly, the His64Ala mutant hydrolyzes a His P2 substrate (sFAHF-pNA) up to 400 times faster than a homologous Ala P2 or Gln P2 substrate (sFAAF-pNA or sFAQF-pNA) at pH 8.0. In contrast, the wild-type enzyme hydrolyzes these three substrates with similar catalytic efficiencies. Additional data from substrate-dependent pH profiles and hydrolysis of large polypeptides indicate that the His64Ala mutant enzyme can recover partially the function of the lost catalytic histidine from a His P2 side chain on the substrate. Such "substrate-assisted catalysis" provides a new basis for engineering enzymes with very narrow and potentially useful substrate specificities. These studies also suggest a possible functional intermediate in the evolution of the catalytic triad of serine proteases.

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