AHAS (acetohydroxyacid synthase) catalyses the first committed step in the biosynthesis of branched-chain amino acids, such as valine, leucine and isoleucine. Owing to the unique presence of these biosynthetic pathways in plants and micro-organisms, AHAS has been widely investigated as an attractive target of several classes of herbicides. Recently, the crystal structure of the catalytic subunit of yeast AHAS has been resolved at 2.8 Å (1 Å=0.1 nm), showing that the active site is located at the dimer interface and is near the herbicide-binding site. In this structure, the existence of two disordered regions, a ‘mobile loop’ and a C-terminal ‘lid’, is worth notice. Although these regions contain the residues that are known to be important in substrate specificity and in herbicide resistance, they are poorly folded into any distinct secondary structure and are not within contact distance of the cofactors. In the present study, we have tried to demonstrate the role of these regions of tobacco AHAS by constructing variants with serial deletions, based on the structure of yeast AHAS. In contrast with the wild-type AHAS, the truncated mutant which removes the C-terminal lid, Δ630, and the internal deletion mutant without the mobile loop, Δ567–582, impaired the binding affinity for ThDP (thiamine diphosphate), and showed different elution profiles representing a monomeric form in gel-filtration chromatography. Our results suggest that these regions are involved in the binding/stabilization of the active dimer and ThDP binding.

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