Crystal structure of histidine ammonia-lyase revealing a novel polypeptide modification as the catalytic electrophile

Biochemistry. 1999 Apr 27;38(17):5355-61. doi: 10.1021/bi982929q.


Histidine ammonia-lyase (EC catalyzes the nonoxidative elimination of the alpha-amino group of histidine and is closely related to the important plant enzyme phenylalanine ammonia-lyase. The crystal structure of histidase from Pseudomonas putida was determined at 2.1 A resolution revealing a homotetramer with D2 symmetry, the molecular center of which is formed by 20 nearly parallel alpha-helices. The chain fold, but not the sequence, resembles those of fumarase C and related proteins. The structure shows that the reactive electrophile is a 4-methylidene-imidazole-5-one, which is formed autocatalytically by cyclization and dehydration of residues 142-144 with the sequence Ala-Ser-Gly. With respect to the first dehydration step, this modification resembles the chromophore of the green fluorescent protein. The active center is clearly established by the modification and by mutations. The observed geometry allowed us to model the bound substrate at a high confidence level. A reaction mechanism is proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / analogs & derivatives
  • Alanine / chemistry
  • Binding Sites
  • Catalysis
  • Crystallization
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Energy Transfer
  • Histidine Ammonia-Lyase / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Pseudomonas putida / enzymology
  • Serine / chemistry


  • Peptides
  • Serine
  • dehydroalanine
  • Histidine Ammonia-Lyase
  • Alanine

Associated data

  • PDB/1B8F