Pancreatic and venom phospholipases A2 have complex and distinct oligomerization behaviour. Pancreatic enzymes are monomeric in solution, but their quaternary structure at interfaces is unknown. On the other hand, certain crotalid venom phospholipases A2 are dimeric in solution, and different reports have proposed either the monomer or the dimer as the catalytically functional subunit. In this study, enzyme immobilization was used as a tool for determining the functional subunits of these enzymes. The dimeric Crotalus atrox phospholipase A2 was covalently attached to agarose beads, via either the amine or the carboxylic groups of the protein. In the first case immobilization led to an 80% loss of activity as compared with the soluble form, and measured by using micellar diheptanoylphosphocholine. Inclusion of micellar protectants in the coupling media did not improve the activity. Enzyme immobilized via carboxylic groups was 2-3-fold more active than the amine-coupled form. In a second approach, Crotalus atrox enzyme was immobilized with single-subunit attachment. The removal, with denaturating washes, of the non-covalently bound units involved in monomer-monomer interactions, caused a large decrease in specific activity of the support-bound enzyme. This suggests the dimeric form as the fully active one. Similar procedures were also carried out with pig pancreatic and Naja naja phospholipases A2. The results indicated that these enzymes are active as monomers.

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