Variability of Specificity Determinants in the O- Succinylbenzoate Synthase Family



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Understanding how protein sequence, structure and function coevolve is at the core of functional genome annotation and protein engineering. The fundamental problem is to determine whether sequence variation contributes to functional differences or if it is a consequence of evolutionary divergence that is unrelated to functional specificity. To address this problem, we cannot merely analyze sequence variation between homologous proteins that have different functions. For comparison, we need to understand the factors that determine sequence variation in proteins that have the same function, such as a set of orthologous enzymes.

Here, we address this problem by analyzing the evolution of functionally important residues in the o-succinylbenzoate synthase (OSBS) family. The OSBS family consists of several hundred enzymes that catalyze a step in menaquinone (Vit. K2) synthesis. Based on phylogeny, the OSBS family can be divided into eight major subfamilies. We assayed wild-type OSBS enzyme activities. The results show that the enzymes from ?-Proteobacteria subfamily 1 and Bacteroidetes have relatively low values, the enzyme from Cyanobacteria subfamily 1 is intermediate, and the values for the proteins from the Actinobacteria and Firmicutes subfamilies are relatively high. We are using computational and experimental methods to identify functionally important amino acids in each subfamily. Our data suggest that each subfamily has a different set of functionally important residues, even though the enzymes catalyze the same reaction. These differences may have accumulated because different mutations were required in each subfamily to compensate for deleterious mutations or to adapt to changing environments. We assessed the roles of these amino acids in enzyme structure and function. Our method achieved 70% successful rate to identify positions that play important roles in one family but not another. The residues P119 and A329 play important role in D. psychrophila but not in T.fusca OSBS. We also observed two class switch mutations in T.fusca, P11 and P22. The mutations at these two position have a similar kinetic parameters as wild-type D. psychrophila OSBS.