The alpha-glucuronidase, GlcA67A, of Cellvibrio japonicus utilizes the carboxylate and methyl groups of aldobiouronic acid as important substrate recognition determinants

T Nagy, D Nurizzo, G J Davies, P Biely, J H Lakey, D N Bolam, H J Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


alpha-Glucuronidases are key components of the ensemble of enzymes that degrade the plant cell wall. They hydrolyze the alpha1,2-glycosidic bond between 4-O-methyl-D-glucuronic acid (4-O-MeGlcA) and the xylan or xylooligosaccharide backbone. Here we report the crystal structure of an inactive mutant (E292A) of the alpha-glucuronidase, GlcA67A, from Cellvibrio japonicus in complex with its substrate. The data show that the 4-O-methyl group of the substrate is accommodated within a hydrophobic sheath flanked by Val-210 and Trp-160, whereas the carboxylate moiety is located within a positively charged region of the substrate-binding pocket. The carboxylate side chains of Glu-393 and Asp-365, on the "beta-face" of 4-O-MeGlcA, form hydrogen bonds with a water molecule that is perfectly positioned to mount a nucleophilic attack at the anomeric carbon of the target glycosidic bond, providing further support for the view that, singly or together, these amino acids function as the catalytic base. The capacity of reaction products and product analogues to inhibit GlcA67A shows that the 4-O-methyl group, the carboxylate, and the xylose sugar of aldobiouronic acid all play an important role in substrate binding. Site-directed mutagenesis informed by the crystal structure of enzyme-ligand complexes was used to probe the importance of highly conserved residues at the active site of GlcA67A. The biochemical properties of K288A, R325A, and K360A show that a constellation of three basic amino acids ( Lys-288, Arg-325, and Lys-360) plays a critical role in binding the carboxylate moiety of 4-O-MeGlcA. Disruption of the apolar nature of the pocket created by Val-210 (V210N and V210S) has a detrimental effect on substrate binding, although the reduction in affinity is not reflected by an inability to accommodate the 4-O-methyl group. Replacing the two tryptophan residues that stack against the sugar rings of the substrate with alanine (W160A and W543A) greatly reduced activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20286-20292
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2003



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