Human CYP17 (P-45017α, 17α-hydroxylase-17,20-lyase)-catalysed side-chain cleavage of 17α-hydroxyprogestogens into androgens is greatly dependent on the presence of cytochrome b5. The native form of cytochrome b5 is composed of a globular core, residues 1Ő98, followed by a membrane insertable C-terminal tail, residues 99Ő133. In the present study the abilities of five different forms of cytochrome b5 to support the side-chain cleavage activity of CYP17 were compared. The five derivatives were: the native pig cytochrome b5 (native pig), its genetically engineered rat counterpart (coreŐtail), the soluble core form of the latter (core), the core with the secretory signal sequence of alkaline phosphatase appended to its N-terminal (signalŐcore) and the latter containing the C-terminal tail of the native rat protein (signalŐcoreŐtail). When examined by Edman degradation and MS, the engineered proteins were shown to have the expected N-terminal amino acid sequences and molecular masses. The native pig was found to be acetylated at the N-terminal. The native pig and coreŐtail enzymes were equally efficient at enhancing the side-chain cleavage activity of human CYP17 and the signalŐcoreŐtail was 55% as efficient. The core and signalŐcore constructs were completely inactive in the aforementioned reaction. All the five derivatives were reduced to varying degrees by NADPH:cytochrome P-450 (NADPH-P450) reductase and the relative efficiencies of this reduction were reminiscent of the behaviour of these derivatives in supporting the side-chain cleavage reaction. In the side-chain cleavage assay, however, NADPH-P450 reductase was used in large excess so that the reduction of cytochrome b5 derivatives was not rate-limiting. The results highlight that productive interaction between cytochrome b5 and CYP17 is governed not only by the presence of a membrane insertable hydrophobic region on the cytochrome b5 but also by its defined spatial orientation at the C-terminal.

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