Pyruvate formate-lyase (PFL) is a glycyl radical enzyme (GRE) that converts pyruvate and coenzyme A into acetyl-CoA and formate in a reaction that is crucial to the primary metabolism of many anaerobic bacteria. The glycyl radical cofactor, which is post-translationally installed by a radical S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) activase, is a simple and effective catalyst, but is also susceptible to oxidative damage in microaerobic environments. Such damage occurs at the glycyl radical cofactor, resulting in cleaved PFL (cPFL). Bacteria have evolved a spare part protein termed YfiD that can be used to repair cPFL. Previously, we obtained a structure of YfiD by NMR spectroscopy and found that the N-terminus of YfiD was disordered and that the C-terminus of YfiD duplicates the structure of the C-terminus of PFL, including a β-strand that is not removed by the oxygen-induced cleavage. We also showed that cPFL is highly susceptible to proteolysis, suggesting that YfiD rescue of cPFL competes with protein degradation. Here, we probe the mechanism by which YfiD can bind and restore activity to cPFL through enzymatic and spectroscopic studies. Our data show that the disordered N-terminal region of YfiD is important for YfiD glycyl radical installation but not for catalysis, and that the duplicate β-strand does not need to be cleaved from cPFL for YfiD to bind. In fact, truncation of this PFL region prevents YfiD rescue. Collectively our data suggest the molecular mechanisms by which YfiD activation is precluded both when PFL is not damaged and when it is highly damaged.
Keywords: bacterial metabolism; cofactor repair; electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy; enzyme inactivation; glycyl radical enzyme; isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC); oxygen-sensitive enzymes; protein complex; radical chemistry; spare part protein.
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