α-Isopropylmalate synthase (α-IPMS) is a multi-domain protein catalysing the condensation of α-ketoisovalerate (α-KIV) and acetyl coenzyme A (AcCoA) to form α-isopropylmalate. This reaction is the first committed step in the leucine biosynthetic pathway in bacteria and plants, and α-IPMS is allosterically regulated by this amino acid. Existing crystal structures of α-IPMS from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MtuIPMS) indicate that this enzyme has a strikingly different domain arrangement in each monomer of the homodimeric protein. This asymmetry results in two distinct interfaces between the N-terminal catalytic domains and the C-terminal regulatory domains in the dimer. In this study, residues Arg97 and Asp444 across one of these unequal domain interfaces were substituted to evaluate the importance of protein asymmetry and salt bridge formation between this pair of residues. Analysis of solution-phase structures of wild-type and variant MtuIPMS indicates that substitutions of these residues have little effect on overall protein conformation, a result also observed for addition of the feedback inhibitor leucine to the wild-type enzyme. All variants had increased catalytic efficiency relative to wild-type MtuIPMS, and those with an Asp444 substitution displayed increased affinity for the substrate AcCoA. All variants also showed reduced sensitivity to leucine and altered biphasic reaction kinetics when compared with those of the wild-type enzyme. It is proposed that substituting residues at the asymmetric domain interface increases flexibility in the protein, particularly affecting the AcCoA binding site and the response to leucine, without penalty on catalysis.
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