Placental (PLAP) and germ-cell (GCAP) alkaline phosphatases are inhibited uncompetitively by L-Leu and L-Phe. Whereas L-Phe inhibits PLAP and GCAP to the same extent, L-Leu inhibits GCAP 17-fold more strongly than it does PLAP. This difference has been attributed [Hummer & Millán (1991) Biochem. J 274, 91-95] to a Glu----Gly substitution at position 429 in GCAP. The D-Phe and D-Leu enantiomorphs are also inhibitory through an uncompetitive mechanism but with greatly decreased efficiencies. Replacement of the active-site residue Arg-166 by Ala-166 changes the inhibition mechanism of the resulting PLAP mutant to a more complex mixed-type inhibition, with decreased affinities for L-Leu and L-Phe. The uncompetitive mechanism is restored on the simultaneous introduction of Gly-429 in the Ala-166 mutant, but the inhibitions of [Ala166,Gly429]PLAP and even [Lys166,Gly429]PLAP by L-Leu and L-Phe are considerably decreased compared with that of [Gly429]PLAP. These findings point to the importance of Arg-166 during inhibition. Active-site binding of L-Leu requires the presence of covalently bound phosphate in the active-site pocket, and the inhibition of PLAP by L-Leu is pH-sensitive, gradually disappearing when the pH is decreased from 10.5 to 7.5. Our data are compatible with the following molecular model for the uncompetitive inhibition of PLAP and GCAP by L-Phe and L-Leu: after binding of a phosphorylated substrate to the active site, the guanidinium group of Arg-166 (normally involved in positioning phosphate) is redirected to the carboxy group of L-Leu (or L-Phe), thus stabilizing the inhibitor in the active site. Therefore leucinamide and leucinol are weaker inhibitors of [Gly429]PLAP than is L-Leu. During this Arg-166-regulated event, the amino acid side group is positioned in the loop containing Glu-429 or Gly-429, leading to further stabilization. Replacement of Glu-429 by Gly-429 eliminates steric constraints experienced by the bulky L-Leu side group during its positioning and also increases the active-site accessibility for the inhibitor, providing the basis for the 17-fold difference in inhibition efficiency between PLAP and GCAP. Finally, the inhibitor's unprotonated amino group co-ordinates with the active-site Zn2+ ion 1, interfering with the hydrolysis of the phosphoenzyme intermediate, a phenomenon that determines the uncompetitive nature of the inhibition.

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