All cysteines in methanol dehydrogenase (MDH) from Methylobacterium extorquens are involved in intra-subunit disulphide bridge formation. One of these is between adjacent cysteine residues which form a novel ring structure in the active site. It is readily reduced, the reduced enzyme being inactive in electron transfer to cytochrome cL. The inactivation is not a result of major structural change or to modification of the prosthetic group pyrrolo-quinoline quinone (PQQ). The reduced enzyme appears to remain active with the artificial electron acceptor phenazine ethosulphate but this is because the dye re-oxidizes the adjacent thiols back to the original disulphide bridge. No free thiols were detected during the reaction cycle with cytochrome cL. Carboxymethylation of the thiols produced by reduction of the novel disulphide ring led to formation of active enzyme. Reconstitution of inactive Ca(2+)-free MDH with Ca2+ led to active enzyme containing the oxidized bridge and reduced quinol, PQQH2, consistent with the conclusion that no hydrogen transfer occurs between these groups in the active site. It is concluded that the disulphide ring in the active site of MDH does not function as a redox component of the reaction. The disulphide ring has no special function in the process of Ca2+ incorporation into the active site. It is suggested that this novel structure might function in the stabilization or protection of the free radical semiquinone form of the prosthetic group (PQQH.) from solvent at the entrance to the active site.

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