Glutaryl 7-aminocephalosporanic acid (GL-7-ACA) acylase of Pseudomonas sp. strain GK16 catalyzes the cleavage of the amide bond in the GL-7-ACA side chain to produce glutaric acid and 7-aminocephalosporanic acid (7-ACA). The active enzyme is an (αβ)2 heterotetramer of two non-identical subunits that are cleaved autoproteolytically from an enzymatically inactive precursor polypeptide. In this study, we prepared and characterized a chemically modified enzyme, and also examined an effect of the modification on enzyme catalysis and autocatalytic processing of the enzyme precursor. We found that treatment of the enzyme with cyanate ion led to a significant loss of the enzyme activity. Structural and functional analyses of the modified enzyme showed that carbamylation of the free α-amino group of the N-terminal Ser-199 of the β subunit resulted in the loss of the enzyme activity. The pH dependence of the kinetic parameters indicates that a single ionizing group is involved in enzyme catalysis with pKa = 6.0, which could be attributed to the α-amino group of the N-terminal Ser-199. The carbamylation also inhibited the secondary processing of the enzyme precursor, suggesting a possible role of the α-amino group for the reaction. Mutagenesis of the invariant N-terminal residue Ser-199 confirmed the key function of its side chain hydroxyl group in both enzyme catalysis and autoproteolytic activation. Partial activity and correct processing of a mutant S199T were in agreement with the general mechanism of N-terminal nucleophile hydrolases. Our results indicate that GL-7-ACA acylase utilizes as a nucleophile Ser-199 in both enzyme activity and autocatalytic processing and most importantly its own α-amino group of the Ser-199 as a general base catalyst for the activation of the hydroxyl group both in enzyme catalysis and in the secondary cleavage of the enzyme precursor. All of the data also imply that GL-7-ACA acylase is a member of a novel class of N-terminal nucleophile hydrolases that have a single catalytic center for enzyme catalysis.
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