The effects of mutation of key active-site residues (Arg-47, Tyr-51, Phe-42 and Phe-87) in Bacillus megaterium flavocytochrome P450 BM3 were investigated. Kinetic studies on the oxidation of laurate and arachidonate showed that the side chain of Arg-47 contributes more significantly to stabilization of the fatty acid carboxylate than does that of Tyr-51 (kinetic parameters for oxidation of laurate: R47A mutant, Km 859 µM, kcat 3960 min-1; Y51F mutant, Km 432 µM, kcat 6140 min-1; wild-type, Km 288 µM, kcat 5140 min-1). A slightly increased kcat for the Y51F-catalysed oxidation of laurate is probably due to decreased activation energy (ΔG) resulting from a smaller ΔG of substrate binding. The side chain of Phe-42 acts as a phenyl ‘cap ’ over the mouth of the substrate-binding channel. With mutant F42A, Km is massively increased and kcat is decreased for oxidation of both laurate (Km 2.08 mM, kcat 2450 min-1) and arachidonate (Km 34.9 µM, kcat 14620 min-1; compared with values of 4.7 µM and 17100 min-1 respectively for wild-type). Amino acid Phe-87 is critical for efficient catalysis. Mutants F87G and F87Y not only exhibit increased Km and decreased kcat values for fatty acid oxidation, but also undergo an irreversible conversion process from a ‘fast ’ to a ‘slow ’ rate of substrate turnover [for F87G (F87Y)-catalysed laurate oxidation: kcat ‘fast ’, 760 (1620) min-1; kcat ‘slow ’, 48.0 (44.6) min-1; kconv (rate of conversion from fast to slow form), 4.9 (23.8) min-1]. All mutants showed less than 10% uncoupling of NADPH oxidation from fatty acid oxidation. The rate of FMN-to-haem electron transfer was shown to become rate-limiting in all mutants analysed. For wild-type P450 BM3, the rate of FMN-to-haem electron transfer (8340 min-1) is twice the steady-state rate of oxidation (4100 min-1), indicating that other steps contribute to rate limitation. Active-site structures of the mutants were probed with the inhibitors 12-(imidazolyl)dodecanoic acid and 1-phenylimidazole. Mutant F87G binds 1-phenylimidazole > 10-fold more tightly than does the wild-type, whereas mutant Y51F binds the haem-co-ordinating fatty acid analogue 12-(imidazolyl)dodecanoic acid > 30-fold more tightly than wild-type.

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