On the basis of the X-ray crystal structure of scytalone dehydratase complexed with an active center inhibitor [Lundqvist, T., Rice, J., Hodge, C. N., Basarab, G. S., Pierce, J. and Lindqvist, Y. (1994) Structure (London) 2, 937-944], eight active-site residues were mutated to examine their roles in the catalytic mechanism. All but one residue (Lys73, a potential base in an anti elimination mechanism) were found to be important to catalysis or substrate binding. Steady-state kinetic parameters for the mutants support the native roles for the residues (Asn131, Asp31, His85, His110, Ser129, Tyr30, and Tyr50) within a syn elimination mechanism. Relative substrate specificities for the two physiological substrates, scytalone and veremelone, versus a Ser129 mutant help assign the orientation of the substrates within the active site. His85Asn was the most damaging mutation to catalysis consistent with its native roles as a general base and a general acid in a syn elimination. The additive effect of Tyr30Phe and Tyr50Phe mutations in the double mutant is consistent with their roles in protonating the substrate's carbonyl through a water molecule. Studies on a synthetic substrate, which has an anomeric carbon atom which can better stabilize a carbocation than the physiological substrate (vermelone), suggest that His110Asn prefers this substrate over vermelone in order to balance the mutation-imposed weakness in promoting the elimination of hydroxide from substrates. All mutant enzymes bound a potent active-site inhibitor in near 1:1 stoichiometry, thereby supporting their active-site integrity. An X-ray crystal structure of the Tyr50Phe mutant indicated that both active-site waters were retained, likely accounting for its residual catalytic activity. Steady-state kinetic parameters with deuterated scytalone gave kinetic isotope effects of 2.7 on k(cat) and 4.2 on k(cat)/K(m), suggesting that steps after dehydration partially limit k(cat). Pre-steady-state measurements of a single-enzyme turnover with scytalone gave a rate that was 6-fold larger than k(cat). k(cat)/K(m) with scytalone has a pK(a) of 7.9 similar to the pK(a) value for the ionization of the substrate's C6 phenolic hydroxyl, whereas k(cat) was unaffected by pH, indicating that the anionic form of scytalone does not bind well to enzyme. With an alternate substrate having a pK(a) above 11, k(cat)/K(m) had a pK(a) of 9.3 likely due to the ionization of Tyr50. The non-enzyme-catalyzed rate of dehydration of scytalone was nearly a billion-fold slower than the enzyme-catalyzed rate at pH 7.0 and 25°C. The non-enzyme-catalyzed rate of dehydration of scytalone had a deuterium kinetic isotope effect of 1.2 at pH 7.0 and 25 °C, and scytalone incorporated deuterium from D2O in the C2 position about 70-fold more rapidly than the dehydration rate. Thus, scytalone dehydrates through an E1cb mechanism off the enzyme.
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