Compared with the activation of dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) by protein denaturants and inorganic salts, activation of the enzyme by thiol modification is relatively slow. Thus it is an ideal system for kinetic study of the activation mechanism. We describe here a kinetic study of the activation of DHFRs from chicken liver and Chinese hamster ovary by p-hydroxymercuribenzoate (p-HMB). The conformational changes in the enzyme molecule that result from the modification were monitored by measuring fluorescence enhancement due to the binding of 2-p-toluidinylnaphthalene-6-sulphonate (TNS), and by monitoring changes in the intrinsic fluorescence of the enzyme. Both activation and the conformational change probed by TNS followed pseudo-first-order kinetics, and the rate constants obtained are in good agreement with each other. The change in intrinsic fluorescence is a biphasic process. The rate of the fast phase, which may reflect a change in the microenvironment of Trp-24 at the active site, coincides with the rate of activation and the conformational change probed by TNS. The rate of the slow phase, which reflects a global conformational change, is about one order of magnitude lower than that of activation. The results indicate that the activation of DHFR by p-HMB is due to modification-induced conformational changes at its active site, rather than the modification of the thiol group itself, which is almost complete within the dead-time of the experiment. This study provides kinetic evidence for the proposal that flexibility at the active site is essential for full expression of catalytic activity.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.