The mechanism of D-fructose isomerization by Arthrobacter D-xylose isomerase suggested from X-ray-crystallographic studies was tested by detailed kinetic analysis of the enzyme with various metal ions at different pH values and temperatures. At D-fructose concentrations used in commercial processes Mg2+ is the best activator with an apparent dissociation constant of 63 microM; Co2+ and Mn2+ bind more strongly (apparent Kd 20 microM and 10 microM respectively) but give less activity (45% and 8% respectively). Ca2+ is a strict competitive inhibitor versus Mg2+ (Ki 3 microM) or Co2+ (Ki 105 microM). The kinetics show a compulsory order of binding; Co2+ binds first to Site 2 and then to Site 1; then D-fructose binds at Site 1. At normal concentrations Mg2+ binds at Site 1, then D-fructose and then Mg2+ at Site 2. At very high Mg2+ concentrations (greater than 10 mM) the order is Mg2+ at Site 1, Mg2+ at Site 2, then D-fructose. The turnover rate (kcat.) is controlled by ionization of a residue with apparent pKa at 30 degrees C of 6.0 +/- 0.07 (Mg2+) or 5.3 +/- 0.08 (Co2+) and delta H = 23.5 kJ/mol. This appears to be His-219, which is co-ordinated to M[2]; protonation destroys isomerization by displacing M[2]; Co2+ binds more strongly at Site 2 than Mg2+, so competes more strongly against H+. The inhibition constant (Ki) for the two competitive inhibitors 5-thio-alpha-D-glucopyranose and D-sorbitol is invariant with pH, but Km(app.) in the Mg[1]-enzyme is controlled by ionization of a group with pKa 6.8 +/- 0.07 and delta H = 27 kJ/mol, which appears to be His-53. This shows that Km(app.) is a complex constant that includes the rate of the ring-opening step catalysed by His-53, which explains the pH-dependence. In the Mg[1]Mg[2]-enzyme or Co[1]Co[2]-enzyme, the pKa is lower (6.2 +/- 0.1 or 5.6 +/- 0.08) because of the extra adjacent cation. Hence the results fit the previously proposed pathway, but show that the mechanisms differ for Mg2+ and Co2+ and that the rate-limiting step is isomerization and not ring-opening as previously postulated.

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