The aspartate and tyrosine aminotransferases from Escherichia coli have 43% sequence identity and nearly identical active sites. Both are equally good enzymes for dicarboxylate substrates, but the latter transaminates aromatic amino acids 1000 times faster. In an attempt to discover the critical residues for this differential substrate specificity, the aspartate aminotransferase mutant V39L has recently been prepared. It showed improved Kcat/Km values for aspartate, glutamate and tyrosine and the corresponding oxo acids, mainly due to two to ten times lower Km values. For example, the Km values of V39L (wild type) for Asp and Glu are 0.12 (1.0) and 0.85 (2.7) mM respectively. The mutant was co-crystallized with 30 mM maleate from both polyethylene glycol and ammonium sulfate. Both structures were solved and refined to R-factors of 0.22 and 0.20 at 2.85 and 2.5 A resolution respectively. They bear strong resemblance to the closed structure of the wild type enzyme complexed with maleate. The unexpected feature is that, for the first time, the closed form was produced in crystals grown from ammonium sulfate. It is concluded that the mutation has shifted the conformational equilibrium towards the closed form, which leads to generally reduced substrate Kms.
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