Wheat-germ aspartate transcarbamoylase (EC 2.1.3.2) was inactivated by phenylglyoxal in a first-order process, provided that the inactivation time did not exceed 10 min. Apparent first-order rate constants were linearly dependent on phenylglyoxal concentration, indicating a bimolecular reaction between a single active-centre residue and phenylglyoxal, with second-order constant of 0.023 mM-1 X min-1. A plot of apparent first-order rate constant versus pH showed a steep rise above pH 9.5, indicating that the essential residue has a pKa value of 10.5 or higher, consistent with an arginine residue. Saturating concentrations of the following ligands provided a degree of protection (percentages in parentheses) against 1 mM-phenylglyoxal: N-phosphonoacetyl-L-aspartate, a bisubstrate analogue (94%); carbamoyl phosphate (75%); UMP, an end-product inhibitor (53%). Succinate (an analogue of L-aspartate) alone gave no protection, but in combination with carbamoyl phosphate raised the protection to 92%, in agreement with the known binding order of the two substrates. These results indicate that the essential arginine residue is close to the carbamoyl phosphate site, probably oriented towards the aspartate site. Attempts to desensitize the UMP-binding site by reaction with phenylglyoxal, while protecting the active centre, were unsuccessful. The essential active-centre arginine residue is compared with a similar residue in the Escherichia coli enzyme.

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