Background: 3-Isopropylmalate dehydrogenase (IPMDH) and isocitrate dehydrogenase (ICDH) belong to a unique family of bifunctional decarboxylating dehydrogenases. Although the ICDH dimer catalyzes its reaction under a closed conformation, known structures of the IPMDH dimer (without substrate) adopt a fully open or a partially closed form. Considering the similarity in the catalytic mechanism, the IPMDH dimer must be in a fully closed conformation during the reaction. A large conformational change should therefore occur upon substrate binding.
Results: We have determined the crystal structure of IPMDH from Thiobacillus ferrooxidans (Tf) complexed with 3-isopropylmalate (IPM) at 2.0 A resolution by the molecular replacement method. The structure shows a fully closed conformation and the substrate-binding site is quite similar to that of ICDH except for a region around the gamma-isopropyl group. The gamma group is recognized by a unique hydrophobic pocket, which includes Glu88, Leu91 and Leu92 from subunit 1 and Val193' from subunit 2.
Conclusions: A large movement of domain 1 is induced by substrate binding, which results in the formation of the hydrophobic pocket for the gamma-isopropyl moiety of IPM. A glutamic acid in domain 1, Glu88, participates in the formation of the hydrophobic pocket. The C beta and C gamma atoms of Glu88 interact with the gamma-isopropyl moiety of IPM and are central to the recognition of substrate. The acidic tip of Glu88 is likely to interact with the nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) ribose of NAD+ in the ternary complex. This structure clearly explains the substrate specificity of IPMDH.