Background: Mammalian purple acid phosphatases are highly conserved binuclear metal-containing enzymes produced by osteoclasts, the cells that resorb bone. The enzyme is a target for drug design because there is strong evidence that it is involved in bone resorption.
Results: The 1.55 A resolution structure of pig purple acid phosphatase has been solved by multiple isomorphous replacement. The enzyme comprises two sandwiched beta sheets flanked by alpha-helical segments. The molecule shows internal symmetry, with the metal ions bound at the interface between the two halves.
Conclusions: Despite less than 15% sequence identity, the protein fold resembles that of the catalytic domain of plant purple acid phosphatase and some serine/threonine protein phosphatases. The active-site regions of the mammalian and plant purple acid phosphatases differ significantly, however. The internal symmetry suggests that the binuclear centre evolved as a result of the combination of mononuclear ancestors. The structure of the mammalian enzyme provides a basis for antiosteoporotic drug design.