Escherichia coli TAP (thioesterase I, EC 3.1.2.2) is a multifunctional enzyme with thioesterase, esterase, arylesterase, protease and lysophospholipase activities. Previous crystal structural analyses identified its essential amino acid residues as those that form a catalytic triad (Ser10-Asp154-His157) and those involved in forming an oxyanion hole (Ser10-Gly44-Asn73). To gain an insight into the biochemical roles of each residue, site-directed mutagenesis was employed to mutate these residues to alanine, and enzyme kinetic studies were conducted using esterase, thioesterase and amino-acid-derived substrates. Of the residues, His157 is the most important, as it plays a vital role in the catalytic triad, and may also play a role in stabilizing oxyanion conformation. Ser10 also plays a very important role, although the small residual activity of the S10A variant suggests that a water molecule may act as a poor substitute. The water molecule could possibly be endowed with the nucleophilic-attacking character by His157 hydrogen-bonding. Asp154 is not as essential compared with the other two residues in the triad. It is close to the entrance of the substrate tunnel, therefore it predominantly affects substrate accessibility. Gly44 plays a role in stabilizing the oxyanion intermediate and additionally in acyl-enzyme-intermediate transformation. N73A had the highest residual enzyme activity among all the mutants, which indicates that Asn73 is not as essential as the other mutated residues. The role of Asn73 is proposed to be involved in a loop75–80 switch-move motion, which is essential for the accommodation of substrates with longer acyl-chain lengths.

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