The crystal structure of pyrimidine nucleoside phosphorylase in a closed conformation

Structure. 1998 Nov 15;6(11):1467-79. doi: 10.1016/s0969-2126(98)00145-2.


Background: Pyrimidine nucleoside phosphorylase (PYNP) catalyzes the reversible phosphorolysis of pyrimidines in the nucleotide synthesis salvage pathway. In lower organisms (e.g. Bacillus stearothermophilus) PYNP accepts both thymidine and uridine, whereas in mammalian and other higher organisms it is specific for thymidine (designated thymidine phosphorylase, TP). PYNP shares 40% sequence similarity (and presumably significant structural similarity) with human TP, which has been implicated as a growth factor in tumor angiogenesis. It is thought that TP undergoes a major conformational change upon substrate binding that consequently produces an active conformation.

Results: The crystal structure of PYNP from B. stearothermophilus with the substrate analog pseudouridine in its active site has been solved to 2.1 A resolution. This structure confirms the similarity of PYNP to TP and supports the idea of a closed active conformation, which is the result of rigid body movement of the alpha and alpha/beta domains. The active-site cleft, where the pyrimidine and phosphate substrates bind, is between the two domains. The structure reveals an asymmetric dimer in which one subunit is fully closed and the other is only partially closed.

Conclusions: The closed conformation of PYNP serves as a good model to better understand the domain movement and overall function of TP. Active-site residues are confirmed and a possible mechanism for substrate binding and subsequent domain movement is suggested. Potent inhibitors of TP might have significant therapeutic value in various chemotherapeutic strategies, and the structure of PYNP should provide valuable insight into the rational design of such inhibitors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Catalysis
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Geobacillus stearothermophilus / enzymology
  • Models, Molecular
  • Pentosyltransferases / chemistry*
  • Pentosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Pyrimidine Phosphorylases


  • Pentosyltransferases
  • Pyrimidine Phosphorylases

Associated data

  • PDB/1BRW