DNA ligases are key enzymes involved in the repair and replication of DNA. Prokaryotic DNA ligases uniquely use NAD+ as the adenylate donor during catalysis, whereas eukaryotic enzymes use ATP. This difference in substrate specificity makes the bacterial enzymes potential targets for therapeutic intervention. We have developed a homogeneous chemiluminescence-based hybridization protection assay for Staphylococcus aureus DNA ligase that uses novel acridinium ester technology and demonstrate that it is an alternative to the commonly used radiometric assays for ligases. The assay has been used to determine a number of kinetic constants for S. aureus DNA ligase catalysis. These included the Km values for NAD+ (2.75±0.1 μM) and the acridinium-ester-labelled DNA substrate (2.5±0.2 nM). A study of the pH-dependencies of kcat, Km and kcat/Km has revealed values of kinetically influential ionizations within the enzyme–substrate complexes (kcat) and free enzyme (kcat/Km). In each case, the curves were shown to be composed of one kinetically influential ionization, for kcat, pKa=6.6±0.1 and kcat/Km, pKa=7.1±0.1. Inhibition characteristics of the enzyme against two Escherichia coli DNA ligase inhibitors have also been determined with IC50 values for these being 3.30±0.86 μM for doxorubicin and 1.40±0.07 μM for chloroquine diphosphate. The assay has also been successfully miniaturized to a sufficiently low volume to allow it to be utilized in a high-throughput screen (384-well format; 20 μl reaction volume), enabling the assay to be used in screening campaigns against libraries of compounds to discover leads for further drug development.

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