Chapter 3 Replacement of Y730 and Y731 in the α2 Subunit of Escherichia coli Ribonucleotide Reductase with 3-Aminotyrosine using an Evolved Suppressor tRNA/tRNA-Synthetase Pair

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Since the discovery of the essential tyrosyl radical (Y•) in E. coli ribonucleotide reductase (RNR), a number of enzymes involved in primary metabolism have been found that use transient or stable tyrosyl (Y) or tryptophanyl (W) radicals in catalysis. These enzymes engage in a myriad of charge transfer reactions that occur with exquisite control and specificity. The unavailability of natural amino acids that can perturb the reduction potential and/or protonation states of redox-active Y or W residues has limited the usefulness of site-directed mutagenesis methods to probe the attendant mechanism of charge transport at these residues. However, recent technologies designed to site-specifically incorporate unnatural amino acids into proteins have now made viable the study of these mechanisms. The class Ia RNR from E. coli serves as a paradigm for enzymes that use amino acid radicals in catalysis. It catalyzes the conversion of nucleotides to deoxynucleotides and utilizes both stable and transient protein radicals. This reaction requires radical transfer from a stable tyrosyl radical (Y122•) in the β subunit to an active-site cysteine (C439) in the α subunit, where nucleotide reduction occurs. The distance between the sites is proposed to be >35 Å. A pathway between these sites has been proposed in which transient aromatic amino acid radicals mediate radical transport. To examine the pathway for radical propagation as well as requirements for coupled electron and proton transfers, a suppressor tRNA/aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (RS) pair has been evolved that allows for site-specific incorporation of 3-aminotyrosine (NH2Y). NH2Y was chosen because it is structurally similar to Y with a similar phenolic pKa. However, at pH 7, it is more easily oxidized than Y by 190 mV (≈4.4 kcal/mol), thus allowing it to act as a radical trap. Here we present the detailed procedures involved in evolving an NH2Y-specific RS, assessing its efficiency in NH2Y insertion, generating RNR mutants with NH2Y at selected sites, and determining the spectroscopic properties of NH2Y• and the kinetics of its formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMethods in Enzymology
EditorsTom Muir, John Abelson
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2009

Publication series

NameMethods in Enzymology
ISSN (Print)0076-6879

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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