The isoenzyme glutathione S-transferase (GST) I from maize (Zea mays) was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli, and its catalytic mechanism was investigated by site-directed mutagenesis and dynamic studies. The results showed that the enzyme promotes proton dissociation from the GSH thiol and creates a thiolate anion with high nucleophilic reactivity by lowering the pKa of the thiol from 8.7 to 6.2. Steady-state kinetics fit well to a rapid equilibrium, random sequential Bi Bi mechanism, with intrasubunit modulation between the GSH binding site (G-site) and the electrophile binding site (H-site). The rate-limiting step of the reaction is viscosity-dependent, and thermodynamic data suggest that product release is rate-limiting. Five residues of GST I (Ser11, His40, Lys41, Gln53 and Ser67), which are located in the G-site, were individually replaced with alanine and their structural and functional roles in the 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (CDNB) conjugation reaction were investigated. On the basis of steady-state kinetics, difference spectroscopy and limited proteolysis studies it is concluded that these residues: (1) contribute to the affinity of the G-site for GSH, as they are involved in side-chain interaction with GSH; (2) influence GSH thiol ionization, and thus its reactivity; (3) participate in kcat regulation by affecting the rate-limiting step of the reaction; and (4) in the cases of His40, Lys41 and Gln53 play an important role in the structural integrity of, and probably in the flexibility of, the highly mobile short 310-helical segment of α-helix 2 (residues 35–46), as shown by limited proteolysis experiments. These structural perturbations are probably transmitted to the H-site through changes in Phe35 conformation. This accounts for the modulation of Kcdnbm by His40, Lys41 and Gln53, and also for the intrasubunit communication between the G- and H-sites. Computer simulations using CONCOORD were applied to maize GST I monomer and dimer structures, each with bound lactoylglutathione, and the results were analysed by the essential dynamics technique. Differences in dynamics were found between the monomer and the dimer simulations showing the importance of using the whole structure in dynamic analysis. The results obtained confirm that the short 310-helical segment of α-helix 2 (residues 35–46) undergoes the most significant structural rearrangements. These rearrangements are discussed in terms of enzyme catalytic mechanism.

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