A kinetic scheme is presented for Lactobacillus casei dihydrofolate reductase that predicts steady-state kinetic parameters. This scheme was derived from measuring association and dissociation rate constants and pre-steady-state transients by using stopped-flow fluorescence and absorbance spectroscopy. Two major features of this kinetic scheme are the following: (i) product dissociation is the rate-limiting step for steady-state turnover at low pH and follows a specific, preferred pathway in which tetrahydrofolate (H4F) dissociation occurs after NADPH replaces NADP+ in the ternary complex; (ii) the rate constant for hydride transfer from NADPH to dihydrofolate (H2F) is rapid (Khyd = 430 s−1), favorable (Keq=290), and pH dependent (pKa = 6.0), reflecting ionization of a single group. Not only is this scheme identical in form with the Escherichia coli kinetic scheme [Fierke et al.(1987) Biochemistry 26, 4085] but moreover none of the rate constants vary by more than 40-fold despite there being less than 30% amino acid homology between the two enzymes. This similarity is consistent with their overall structural congruence. The role of Trp-21 of L. casei dihydrofolate reductase in binding and catalysis was probed by amino acid substitution. Trp-21,a strictly conserved residue near both the folate and coenzyme binding sites, was replaced by leucine. Two major effects of this substitution are on (i) the rate constant for hydride transfer which decreases 100-fold, becoming the rate-limiting step in steady-state turnover, and (ii) the affinities for NADPH and NADP+ which decrease by ≈3.5 and ≈0.5 kcal mol−1, respectively. These results are consistent with high-resolution NMR spectroscopy studies [Birdsall et al. (1989) Biochemistry 28, 1353] suggesting the major structural effects of W21L mutant are on binding of the nicotinamide moiety of the coenzyme.
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