Structural adaptations of the cold-active citrate synthase from an Antarctic bacterium

Structure. 1998 Mar 15;6(3):351-61. doi: 10.1016/s0969-2126(98)00037-9.


Background: The structural basis of adaptation of enzymes to low temperature is poorly understood. Dimeric citrate synthase has been used as a model enzyme to study the structural basis of thermostability, the structure of the enzyme from organisms living in habitats at 55 degrees C and 100 degrees C having previously been determined. Here the study is extended to include a citrate synthase from an Antarctic bacterium, allowing us to explore the structural basis of cold activity and thermostability across the whole temperature range over which life is known to exit.

Results: We report here the first crystal structure of a cold-active enzyme, citrate synthase, isolated from an Antarctic bacterium, at a resolution of 2.09 A. In comparison with the same enzyme from a hyperthermophilic host, the cold-active enzyme has a much more accessible active site, an unusual electrostatic potential distribution and an increased relative flexibility of the small domain compared to the large domain. Several other features of the cold-active enzyme were also identified: reduced subunit interface interactions with no intersubunit ion-pair networks; loops of increased length carrying more charge and fewer proline residues; an increase in solvent-exposed hydrophobic residues; and an increase in intramolecular ion pairs.

Conclusions: Enzymes from organisms living at the temperature extremes of life need to avoid hot or cold denaturation yet maintain sufficient structural integrity to allow catalytic efficiency. For hyperthermophiles, thermal denaturation of the citrate synthase dimer appears to be resisted by complex networks of ion pairs at the dimer interface, a feature common to other hyperthermophilic proteins. For the cold-active citrate synthase, cold denaturation appears to be resisted by an increase in intramolecular ion pairs compared to the hyperthermophilic enzyme. Catalytic efficiency of the cold-active enzyme appears to be achieved by a more accessible active site and by an increase in the relative flexibility of the small domain compared to the large domain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antarctic Regions
  • Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Binding Sites
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase / chemistry*
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase / metabolism*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Enzyme Stability
  • Glycine
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Ions
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Proline
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Denaturation
  • Pyrococcus / enzymology
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Ions
  • Proline
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase
  • Glycine

Associated data

  • PDB/1A59