A deletion in vitro can be made in the aceEF-lpd operon encoding the pyruvate dehydrogenase multienzyme complex of Escherichia coli, which causes deletion of two of the three homologous lipoyl domains that comprise the N-terminal half of each dihydrolipoamide acetyltransferase (E2p) polypeptide chain. An active complex is still formed and 1H-n.m.r. spectroscopy of this modified complex revealed that many of the unusually sharp resonances previously attributed to conformationally mobile segments in the wild-type E2p polypeptide chains had correspondingly disappeared. A further deletion was engineered in the long (alanine + proline)-rich segment of polypeptide chain that linked the one remaining lipoyl domain to the C-terminal half of the E2p chain. 1H-n.m.r. spectroscopy of the resulting enzyme complex, which was also active, revealed a further corresponding loss in the unusually sharp resonances observed in the spectrum. These experiments strongly support the view that the sharp resonances derive, principally at least, from the three long (alanine + proline)-rich sequences which separate the three lipoyl domains and link them to the C-terminal half of the E2p chain. Closer examination of the 400 MHz 1H-n.m.r. spectra of the wild-type and restructured complexes, and of the products of limited proteolysis, revealed another sharp but smaller resonance. This was tentatively attributed to another, but smaller, (alanine + proline)-rich sequence that separates the dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase-binding domain from the inner core domain in the C-terminal half of the E2p chain. If this sequence is also conformationally flexible, it may explain previous fluorescence data which suggest that dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase bound to the enzyme complex is quite mobile. The acetyltransferase active site in the E2p chain was shown to reside in the inner core domain, between residues 370 and 629.

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