A ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) from Flavobacterium johnsoniae (Fj) differs fundamentally from known (subclass a-c) class I RNRs, warranting its assignment to a new subclass, Id. Its β subunit shares with Ib counterparts the requirements for manganese(II) and superoxide (O2 -) for activation, but it does not require the O2 --supplying flavoprotein (NrdI) needed in Ib systems, instead scavenging the oxidant from solution. Although Fj β has tyrosine at the appropriate sequence position (Tyr 104), this residue is not oxidized to a radical upon activation, as occurs in the Ia/b proteins. Rather, Fj β directly deploys an oxidized dimanganese cofactor for radical initiation. In treatment with one-electron reductants, the cofactor can undergo cooperative three-electron reduction to the II/II state, in contrast to the quantitative univalent reduction to inactive "met" (III/III) forms seen with I(a-c) βs. This tendency makes Fj β unusually robust, as the II/II form can readily be reactivated. The structure of the protein rationalizes its distinctive traits. A distortion in a core helix of the ferritin-like architecture renders the active site unusually open, introduces a cavity near the cofactor, and positions a subclass-d-specific Lys residue to shepherd O2 - to the Mn2 II/II cluster. Relative to the positions of the radical tyrosines in the Ia/b proteins, the unreactive Tyr 104 of Fj β is held away from the cofactor by a hydrogen bond with a subclass-d-specific Thr residue. Structural comparisons, considered with its uniquely simple mode of activation, suggest that the Id protein might most closely resemble the primordial RNR-β.
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