Insights into the evolution of enzymatic specificity and catalysis: From Asgard archaea to human adenylate kinases

Sci Adv. 2022 Nov 4;8(44):eabm4089. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abm4089. Epub 2022 Nov 4.


Enzymatic catalysis is critically dependent on selectivity, active site architecture, and dynamics. To contribute insights into the interplay of these properties, we established an approach with NMR, crystallography, and MD simulations focused on the ubiquitous phosphotransferase adenylate kinase (AK) isolated from Odinarchaeota (OdinAK). Odinarchaeota belongs to the Asgard archaeal phylum that is believed to be the closest known ancestor to eukaryotes. We show that OdinAK is a hyperthermophilic trimer that, contrary to other AK family members, can use all NTPs for its phosphorylation reaction. Crystallographic structures of OdinAK-NTP complexes revealed a universal NTP-binding motif, while 19F NMR experiments uncovered a conserved and rate-limiting dynamic signature. As a consequence of trimerization, the active site of OdinAK was found to be lacking a critical catalytic residue and is therefore considered to be "atypical." On the basis of discovered relationships with human monomeric homologs, our findings are discussed in terms of evolution of enzymatic substrate specificity and cold adaptation.

MeSH terms

  • Adenylate Kinase* / chemistry
  • Archaea* / genetics
  • Catalysis
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Humans


  • Adenylate Kinase