A Measure of the Broad Substrate Specificity of Enzymes Based on 'Duplicate' Catalytic Residues

Sandeep Chakraborty*, Bjarni Ásgeirsson, Basuthkar J. Rao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of an enzyme to select and act upon a specific class of compounds with unerring precision and efficiency is an essential feature of life. Simultaneously, these enzymes often catalyze the reaction of a range of similar substrates of the same class, and also have promiscuous activities on unrelated substrates. Previously, we have established a methodology to quantify promiscuous activities in a wide range of proteins. In the current work, we quantitatively characterize the active site for the ability to catalyze distinct, yet related, substrates (BRASS). A protein with known structure and active site residues provides the framework for computing 'duplicate' residues, each of which results in slightly modified replicas of the active site scaffold. Such spatial congruence is supplemented by Finite difference Poisson Boltzmann analysis which filters out electrostatically unfavorable configurations. The congruent configurations are used to compute an index (BrassIndex), which reflects the broad substrate profile of the active site. We identify an acetylhydrolase and a methyltransferase as having the lowest and highest BrassIndex, respectively, from a set of non-homologous proteins extracted from the Catalytic Site Atlas. The acetylhydrolase, a regulatory enzyme, is known to be highly specific for platelet-activating factor. In the methyltransferase (PDB: 1QAM), various combinations of glycine (Gly38/40/42), asparagine (Asn101/11) and glutamic acid (Glu59/36) residues having similar spatial and electrostatic profiles with the specified scaffold (Gly38, Asn101 and Glu59) exemplifies the broad substrate profile such an active site may provide. 'Duplicate' residues identified by relaxing the spatial and/or electrostatic constraints can be the target of directed evolution methodologies, like saturation mutagenesis, for modulating the substrate specificity of proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere49313
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2012


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