Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase: three-dimensional structure and molecular mechanisms

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2003 Jun 15;414(2):170-9. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9861(03)00170-x.


Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC; EC catalyzes the irreversible carboxylation of phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) to form oxaloacetate and Pi using Mg2+ or Mn2+ as a cofactor. PEPC plays a key role in photosynthesis by C4 and Crassulacean acid metabolism plants, in addition to its many anaplerotic functions. Recently, three-dimensional structures of PEPC from Escherichia coli and the C4 plant maize (Zea mays) were elucidated by X-ray crystallographic analysis. These structures reveal an overall square arrangement of the four identical subunits, making up a "dimer-of-dimers" and an eight-stranded beta barrel structure. At the C-terminal region of the beta barrel, the Mn2+ and a PEP analog interact with catalytically essential residues, confirmed by site-directed mutagenesis studies. At about 20A from the beta barrel, an allosteric inhibitor (aspartate) was found to be tightly bound to down-regulate the activity of the E. coli enzyme. In the case of maize C4-PEPC, the putative binding site for an allosteric activator (glucose 6-phosphate) was also revealed. Detailed comparison of the various structures of E. coli PEPC in its inactive state with maize PEPC in its active state shows that the relative orientations of the two subunits in the basal "dimer" are different, implicating an allosteric transition. Dynamic movements were observed for several loops due to the binding of either an allosteric inhibitor, a metal cofactor, a PEP analog, or a sulfate anion, indicating the functional significance of these mobile loops in catalysis and regulation. Information derived from these three-dimensional structures, combined with related biochemical studies, has established models for the reaction mechanism and allosteric regulation of this important C-fixing enzyme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Site
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Aspartic Acid / chemistry
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Dimerization
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Manganese / metabolism
  • Models, Chemical
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxylase / chemistry*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Zea mays / enzymology


  • Amino Acids
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Manganese
  • RNA
  • Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxylase