University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Enzymes with radical tendencies: the PFL family
Doctoral dissertation, November 2006.
The first glycyl radical in an enzyme was described 20 years ago and since then the family of glycyl radical enzymes (GREs) has expanded to include enzymes catalysing five chemically distinct reactions. The type enzymes of the family, anaerobic ribonucleotide reductase (RNRIII) and pyruvate formate lyase (PFL) had been studied long before it was known that they are GREs. Spectroscopic measurements on the radical and an observation that exposure to oxygen irreversibly inactivates the enzymes by cleavage of the protein proved that the radical is located on a particular glycine residue, close to the C-terminus of the protein. Both anaerobic RNRIII and PFL, are important for many anaerobic and facultative anaerobic bacteria as RNRIII is responsible for the synthesis of DNA precursors and PFL catalyses a key metabolic reaction in glycolysis. The crystal structures of both were solved in 1999 and they revealed that, although the enzymes do not share significant sequence identity, they share a similar structure - the radical site and residues necessary for catalysis are buried inside a ten stranded $\ualpha $/$\ubeta $-barrel.
GREs are synthesised in an inactive form and are post-translationally activated by an activating enzyme which uses S-adenosyl methionine and an iron-sulphur cluster to generate the radical. One of the goals of this thesis work was to crystallise the activating enzyme of PFL. This task is challenging as, like GREs, the activating component is inactivated by oxygen. The experiments were therefore carried out in an oxygen free atmosphere. This is the first report of a crystalline GRE activating enzyme.
Recently several new GREs have been characterised, all sharing sequence similarity to PFL but not to RNRIII. Also, the genome sequencing projects have identified many PFL-like GREs of unknown function, usually annotated as PFLs. In the present thesis I describe the grouping of these PFL family enzymes based on the sequence similarity and analyse the conservation patterns when compared to the structure of E. coli PFL. Based on this information an activation route is proposed. I also report a crystal structure of one of the PFL-like enzymes with unknown function, PFL2 from Archaeoglobus fulgidus. As A. fulgidus is a hyperthermophilic organism, possible mechanisms stabilising the structure are discussed. The organisation of an active site of PFL2 suggests that the enzyme may be a dehydratase.
Keywords: glycyl radical, enzyme, pyruvate formate lyase, x-ray crystallography, bioinformatics
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Last updated 28.09.2006