Drug resistance associated with dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) has emerged as a critical issue in the treatment of bacterial infections. In our efforts to understand the mechanism of a drug-resistant dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) from a pathogenic bacterial source, we report the first kinetic characterization of Streptococcus pneumoniae DHFR (spDHFR) along with its X-ray structure. This study revealed that the kinetic properties of spDHFR were significantly different from those of Escherichia coli DHFR. The product (tetrahydrofolate) dissociation step that is the rate-limiting step in E. coli DHFR is significantly accelerated in spDHFR so that hydride transfer or a preceding step is rate-limiting. Comparison of the binding parameters of this enzyme to those of a mutant spDHFR (Sp9) confirmed that the Leu100 residue in spDHFR is the critical element for the trimethoprim (TMP) resistance. Steady-state kinetics exhibited a pH dependence in kcat, which prompted us to elucidate the role of the new catalytic residue (His33) in the active site of spDHFR. Structural data of the Sp9 mutant in complex withNADPH and methotrexate confirmed the participation of His33 in a hydrogen bonding network involving a water molecule, the hydroxyl group of Thr119, and the carboxylate ion of Glu30. Sequence analysis of the DHFR superfamily revealed that the His residue is the major amino acid component at this position and is found mostly in pathogenic bacterial DHFRs.Amutation of Val100 to Leu demonstrated a steric clash of the leucine side chain with the side chains of Ile8 and Phe34, rationalizing weaker binding of trimethoprim to Leu100DHFR. Understanding the role of specific amino acids in the active site coupled with detailed structural analysis will inform us on how to better design inhibitors targeting drug-resistant pathogenic bacterial DHFRs.
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