Initial velocity and product inhibition studies have been performed on soluble catechol-O-methyltransferase which has been partially purified from pig liver. The results are consistent with an ordered reaction mechanism, in which S-adenosyl-L-methionine (AdoMet) is the leading substrate. The enzyme is irreversibly inhibited by maleimide derivatives in a biphasic manner, which suggests a differential reaction with two thiol groups. N-(3,4-Dihydroxyphenyl)maleimide, which has a reactive moiety (maleimide ring) and an affinity moiety (catechol ring), acts as an affinity labelling compound on the more reactive SH group; AdoMet and Mg2+ protect against this modification. Total protection of this SH group results in a pseudo-first-order inhibition of the enzyme, with the apparent rate constant being proportional to the inhibitor concentration. All the other maleimide derivatives studied inhibited the enzyme by reacting with one of the two SH groups in a non-specific manner. The reaction of the other, more reactive, SH group was either specific (active-site-directed) or non-specific, depending on the substituent present in the affinity moiety and also on the length of an intermediate chain of methylene groups present between this moiety and the reactive maleimide ring. In the presence of both AdoMet and Mg2+, 3,5-dinitrocatechol, a reversible inhibitor of the enzyme which is competitive with respect to the catechol substrate, protects the enzyme from inactivation by any of the maleimide derivatives. The adducts of these maleimide derivatives formed with dithiothreitol inhibit the enzyme reversibly, showing inhibition patterns that are consistent with the mechanism deduced from the initial velocity and product inhibition studies.

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