To obtain information on the reaction specificity of cystalysin from the spirochaete bacterium Treponema denticola, the interaction with l- and d-alanine has been investigated. Binding of both alanine enantiomers leads to the appearance of an external aldimine absorbing at 429nm and of a band absorbing at 498nm, indicative of a quinonoid species. Racemization and transamination reactions were observed to occur with both alanine isomers as substrates. The steady-state kinetic parameters for racemization, kcat and Km, for l-alanine are 1.05±0.03s−1 and 10±1mM respectively, whereas those for d-alanine are 1.4±0.1s−1 and 10±1mM. During the reaction of cystalysin with l- or d-alanine, a time-dependent loss of β-elimination activity occurs concomitantly with the conversion of the pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP) coenzyme into pyridoxamine 5′-phosphate (PMP). The catalytic efficiency of the half-transamination of l-alanine is found to be 5.3×10−5 mM−1·s−1, 5-fold higher when compared with that of d-alanine. The partition ratio between racemization and half-transamination reactions is 2.3×103 for l-alanine and 1.4×104 for d-alanine. The pH dependence of the kinetic parameters for both the reactions shows that the enzyme possesses a single ionizing residue with pK values of 6.5–6.6, which must be unprotonated for catalysis. Addition of pyruvate converts the PMP form of the enzyme back into the PLP form and causes the concomitant recovery of β-elimination activity. In contrast with other PLP enzymes studied so far, but similar to alanine racemases, the apoform of the enzyme abstracted tritium from C4′ of both (4′S)- and (4′R)-[4′-3H]PMP in the presence of pyruvate. Together with molecular modelling of the putative binding sites of l- and d-alanine at the active site of the enzyme, the implications of these studies for the mechanisms of the side reactions catalysed by cystalysin are discussed.

Abbreviations used: PLP, pyridoxal 5′-phosphate; PMP, pyridoxamine 5′-phosphate; PNP, pyridoxine 5′-phosphate.

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Dedicated to the memory of Eraldo Antonini, eminent biochemist, prematurely deceased twenty years ago, on 19 March 1983.