1. The pH-dependence of the second-order rate constant (k) for the reaction of actinidin (EC with 2-(N'-acetyl-L-phenylalanylamino)ethyl 2'-pyridyl disulphide was determined and the contributions to k of various hydronic states were evaluated. 2. The data were used to assess the consequences for transition-state geometry of providing P2/S2 hydrophobic contacts in addition to hydrogen-bonding opportunities in the S1-S2 intersubsite region. 3. The P2/S2 contacts (a) substantially improve enzyme-ligand binding, (b) greatly enhance the contribution to reactivity of the hydronic state bounded by pKa 3 (the pKa characteristic of the formation of catalytic-site-S-/-ImH+ state) and pKa 5 (a relatively minor contributor in reactions that lack the P2/S2 contacts), such that the major rate optimum occurs at pH 4 instead of at pH 2.8-2.9, and (c) reveal the kinetic influence of a pKa approx. 6.3 not hitherto observed in reactions of actinidin. 4. Possibilities for the interplay of electrostatic effects and binding interactions in both actinidin and papain (EC are discussed.

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