A cDNA for duck liver ‘malic’ enzyme (EC 1.1.1.40) was subcloned into pUC-8, and the active enzyme was expressed in Escherichia coli TG-2 cells as a fusion protein including a 15-residue N-terminal leader from beta-galactosidase coded by the lacZ′ gene. C99S and R70Q mutants of the enzyme were generated by the M13 mismatch technique. The recombinant enzymes were purified to near homogeneity by a simple two-step procedure and characterized relative to the enzyme isolated from duck liver. The natural duck enzyme has a subunit molecular mass of approx. 65 kDa, and the following kinetic parameters for oxidative decarboxylation of L-malate at pH 7.0: Km NADP+ (4.6 microM); Km L-malate (73 microM); kcat (160 s-1); Ka (2.4 microM) and Ka′ (270 microM), dissociation constants of Mn2+ at ‘tight’ (activating) and ‘weak’ metal sites; and substrate inhibition (51% of kcat. at 8 mM-L-malate). Properties of the E. coli-derived recombinant wild-type enzyme are indistinguishable from those of the natural duck enzyme. Kinetic parameters of the R70Q mutant are relatively unaltered, indicating that Arg-70 is not required for the reaction. The C99S mutant has unchanged Km for NADP+ and parameters for the ‘weak’ sites (i.e. inhibition by L-malate, Ka′); however, kcat. decreased 3-fold and Km for L-malate and Ka each increased 4-fold, resulting in a catalytic efficiency [kcat./(Km NADP+ x Km L-malate x Ka)] equal to 3.7% of the natural duck enzyme. These results suggest that the positioning of Cys-99 in the sequence is important for proper binding of L-malate and bivalent metal ions.

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