The ultimate diol epoxide carcinogens derived from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzo[a]pyrene (BP), are metabolized primarily by glutathione (GSH) conjugation reaction catalyzed by GSH transferases (GSTs). In human liver and probably lung, the α class GSTs are likely to be responsible for the majority of this reaction because of their high abundance. The catalytic efficiency for GSH conjugation of the carcinogenic (+)-anti-benzo[a]pyrene-7,8-diol-9,10-epoxide [(+)-anti-BPDE] is more than 5-fold higher for hGSTA1-1 than for hGSTA2-2. Here, we demonstrate that mutation of isoleucine-11 of hGSTA2-2, a residue located in the hydrophobic substrate-binding site (H-site) of the enzyme, to alanine (which is present in the same position in hGSTA 1-1) results in about a 7-fold increase in catalytic efficiency for (+)-anti-BPDE-GSH conjugation. Thus, a single amino acid substitution is sufficient to convert hGSTA2-2 to a protein that matches hGSTA1-1 in its catalytic efficiency. The increased catalytic efficiency of hGSTA2/I11A is accompanied by greater enantioselectivity for the carcinogenic (+)-anti-BPDE over (-)-anti-BPDE. Further remodeling of the H-site of hGSTA2-2 to resemble that of hGSTA1-1 (S9F, I11A, F110V, and S215A mutations, SIFS mutant) results in an enzyme whose catalytic efficiency is approximately 13.5-fold higher than that of the wild-type hGSTA2-2, and about 2.5-fold higher than that of the wild-type hGSTA1-1. The increased activity upon mutations can be rationalized by the interactions of the amino acid side chains with the substrate and the orientation of the substrate in the active site, as visualized by molecular modeling. Interestingly, the catalytic efficiency of hGSTA2-2 toward (-)-anti-BPDE was increased to a level close to that of hGSTA1-1 upon F110V, not I11A, mutation. Similar to (+)-anti-BPDE, however, the SIFS mutant was the most efficient enzyme for GSH conjugation of (-)-anti-BPDE.
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