Heavy riboflavin synthase from Bacillus subtilis. Particle dimensions, crystal packing and molecular symmetry

J Mol Biol. 1986 Jan 5;187(1):87-100. doi: 10.1016/0022-2836(86)90408-0.


Heavy riboflavin synthase from Bacillus subtilis is an enzyme complex consisting of approximately three alpha-subunits (Mr 23.5 X 10(3)) and 60 beta-subunits (Mr 16 X 10(3)). The enzyme has been crystallized from phosphate buffer in a hexagonal crystal modification that belongs to space group P6(3)22. The asymmetric unit of the crystal cell contains ten beta-subunits. The structure of this unusual 10(6) Mr protein has been studied by small-angle X-ray scattering, electron microscopy of three-dimensional crystals, and crystallographic methods. The scattering curves can be interpreted in terms of a hollow sphere model with a ratio of inner and outer radius of 0.3:1. A diameter of 168 A was estimated from the scattering curves, in close agreement with electron microscopic studies. An aggregate with the stoichiometry beta 60, which was obtained by ligand-driven reaggregation of isolated beta-subunits, showed similar shape and dimensions, but a larger value for the ratio Ri/Ra. Electron micrographs of freeze-etched enzyme crystals showed approximately spherical molecules, which were arranged in hexagonal layers. The lattice constants found from the micrographs are in good agreement with the values derived from X-ray diffraction data. Rotation function calculations in Patterson space showed a set of peaks for 2-fold, 3-fold and 5-fold local rotation axes, accurately consistent with icosahedral symmetry and with the particle orientation A shown in the Appendix. The crystal packing can be described as follows: enzyme particles with icosahedral symmetry (point group 532) are located at points 32 of the hexagonal cell, corresponding to positions (0, 0, 0) and (0, 0, 1/2) on the 6-fold screw axes. From the data reported, it may be concluded that the enzyme structure can be described as an icosahedral capsid of 60 beta-subunits with the triangulation number T = 1. The alpha-subunits are located in the central core space of the capsid, but their spatial orientation is incompletely understood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / enzymology*
  • Bacillus subtilis / ultrastructure
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry
  • Crystallography
  • Freeze Etching
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Mathematics
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Riboflavin Synthase / isolation & purification
  • Riboflavin Synthase / metabolism*
  • Scattering, Radiation
  • Transferases / metabolism*
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Transferases
  • Riboflavin Synthase