The pyridoxal 5'-phosphate-dependent tryptophan synthase alpha(2)beta(2) complex is a paradigmatic protein for substrate channeling and allosteric regulation. The enzymatic activity is modulated by a ligand-mediated equilibrium between open (inactive) and closed (active) conformations of the alpha- and beta-subunit, predominantly involving the mobile alpha loop 6 and the beta-COMM domain that contains beta helix 6. The alpha ligand-triggered intersubunit communication seems to rely on a single hydrogen bond formed between the carbonyl oxygen of beta Ser-178 of beta helix 6 and the NH group of alpha Gly-181 of alpha loop 6. We investigated whether and to what extent mutations of alpha Gly-181 and beta Ser-178 affect allosteric regulation by the replacement of beta Ser-178 with Pro or Ala and of alpha Gly-181 with either Pro to remove the amidic proton that forms the hydrogen bond or Ala, Val, and Phe to analyze the dependence on steric hindrance of the open-closed conformational transition. The alpha and beta activity assays and the equilibrium distribution of beta-subunit catalytic intermediates indicate that mutations do not significantly influence the intersubunit catalytic activation but completely abolish ligand-induced alpha- to beta-subunit signaling, demonstrating distinct pathways for alpha-beta-site communication. Limited proteolysis experiments indicate that the removal of the interaction between beta Ser-178 and alpha Gly-181 strongly favors the more trypsin-accessible open conformation of the alpha-active site. When the hydrogen bond cannot be formed, the alpha-subunit is unable to attain the closed conformation, and consequently, the allosteric signal is aborted at the subunit interface.
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