Solution structure and biochemical characterization of a spare part protein that restores activity to an oxygen-damaged glycyl radical enzyme

J Biol Inorg Chem. 2019 Sep;24(6):817-829. doi: 10.1007/s00775-019-01681-2. Epub 2019 Jun 27.


Glycyl radical enzymes (GREs) utilize a glycyl radical cofactor to carry out a diverse array of chemically challenging enzymatic reactions in anaerobic bacteria. Although the glycyl radical is a powerful catalyst, it is also oxygen sensitive such that oxygen exposure causes cleavage of the GRE at the site of the radical. This oxygen sensitivity presents a challenge to facultative anaerobes dwelling in areas prone to oxygen exposure. Once GREs are irreversibly oxygen damaged, cells either need to make new GREs or somehow repair the damaged one. One particular GRE, pyruvate formate lyase (PFL), can be repaired through the binding of a 14.3 kDa protein, termed YfiD, which is constitutively expressed in E. coli. Herein, we have solved a solution structure of this 'spare part' protein using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. These data, coupled with data from circular dichroism, indicate that YfiD has an inherently flexible N-terminal region (residues 1-60) that is followed by a C-terminal region (residues 72-127) that has high similarity to the glycyl radical domain of PFL. Reconstitution of PFL activity requires that YfiD binds within the core of the PFL barrel fold; however, modeling suggests that oxygen-damaged, i.e. cleaved, PFL cannot fully accommodate YfiD. We further report that a PFL variant that mimics the oxygen-damaged enzyme is highly susceptible to proteolysis, yielding additionally truncated forms of PFL. One such PFL variant of ~ 77 kDa makes an ideal scaffold for the accommodation of YfiD. A molecular model for the rescue of PFL activity by YfiD is presented.

Keywords: Circular dichroism; Cofactor repair; Glycyl radical enzyme; Nuclear magnetic resonance; Radical chemistry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetyltransferases / chemistry*
  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary


  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • YfiD protein, E coli
  • Acetyltransferases
  • formate C-acetyltransferase
  • Oxygen