Helicobacter pylori γ-glutamyltranspeptidase (HpGT) is a member of the N-terminal nucleophile hydrolase superfamily. It is translated as an inactive 60 kDa polypeptide precursor that undergoes intramolecular autocatalytic cleavage to generate a fully active heterodimer composed of a 40 kDa and a 20 kDa subunit. The resultant N-terminus, Thr 380, has been shown to be the catalytic nucleophile in both autoprocessing and enzymatic reactions. Once processed, HpGT catalyzes the hydrolysis of the γ-glutamyl bond in glutathione and its conjugates. To facilitate the determination of physiologically relevant substrates for the enzyme, crystal structures of HpGT in complex with glutamate (1.6 Å, Rfactor = 16.7%, R free = 19.0%) and an inactive HpGT mutant, T380A, in complex with S-(nitrobenzyl)glutathione (1.55 Å, Rfactor = 18.7%, R free = 21.8%) have been determined. Residues that comprise the γ-glutamyl binding site are primarily located in the 20 kDa subunit and make numerous hydrogen bonds with the α-amino and α-carboxylate groups of the substrate. In contrast, a single hydrogen bond occurs between the T380A mutant and the remainder of the ligand. Lack of specific coordination beyond the γ-glutamyl moiety may account for the substrate binding permissiveness of the enzyme. Structural analysis was combined with site-directed mutagenesis of residues involved in maintaining the conformation of a loop region that covers the γ-glutamyl binding site. Results provide evidence that access to this buried site may occur through conformational changes in the Tyr 433-containing loop, as disruption of the intricate hydrogen-bond network responsible for optimal placement of Tyr 433 significantly diminishes catalytic activity.
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