AdoMet radical proteins--from structure to evolution--alignment of divergent protein sequences reveals strong secondary structure element conservation

Nucleic Acids Res. 2004 Aug 2;32(13):4015-25. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkh728. Print 2004.


Eighteen subclasses of S-adenosyl-l-methionine (AdoMet) radical proteins have been aligned in the first bioinformatics study of the AdoMet radical superfamily to utilize crystallographic information. The recently resolved X-ray structure of biotin synthase (BioB) was used to guide the multiple sequence alignment, and the recently resolved X-ray structure of coproporphyrinogen III oxidase (HemN) was used as the control. Despite the low 9% sequence identity between BioB and HemN, the multiple sequence alignment correctly predicted all but one of the core helices in HemN, and correctly predicted the residues in the enzyme active site. This alignment further suggests that the AdoMet radical proteins may have evolved from half-barrel structures (alphabeta)4 to three-quarter-barrel structures (alphabeta)6 to full-barrel structures (alphabeta)8. It predicts that anaerobic ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) activase, an ancient enzyme that, it has been suggested, serves as a link between the RNA and DNA worlds, will have a half-barrel structure, whereas the three-quarter barrel, exemplified by HemN, will be the most common architecture for AdoMet radical enzymes, and fewer members of the superfamily will join BioB in using a complete (alphabeta)8 TIM-barrel fold to perform radical chemistry. These differences in barrel architecture also explain how AdoMet radical enzymes can act on substrates that range in size from 10 atoms to 608 residue proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Flavodoxin / chemistry
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases / chemistry
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / chemistry*
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / genetics
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Flavodoxin
  • Free Radicals
  • S-Adenosylmethionine
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases