Phosphoglycerate kinase (PGK) is a key glycolytic enzyme that catalyzes the reversible transfer of a phoshoryl-group from 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate (1,3-BPG) to ADP forming 3-phosphoglycerate (3-PG) and ATP. PGK is a typical two-domain hinge-bending enzyme, with a highly conserved structure. The N-terminal domain binds 1,3-BPG/3-PG, whereas the C-terminal domain binds Mg-ADP/Mg-ATP.Humans have two PGK isozymes, PGK1 and PGK2, where PGK1 is an ubiquitous enzyme that is expressed in all somatic cells and PGK2 is a testis-specific enzyme. The PGK1 gene is located on the X-chromosome q-13.1, contains 11 exons and encodes a protein of 416 amino acids. Mutations of the PGK1 gene result in an enzyme deficiency that is for the most clinically characterized by mild-to severe hemolytic anemia and various defects in the central nervous system. To date, 19 different mutations with worldwide distribution have been reported. No correlation between the residual PGK activity and the severity of the clinical manifestations have been documented so far. To analyze the mutations at protein level and possibly to correlate the genotype to clinical phenotype, we started with the molecular characterization of the wild-type PGK1 enzyme and three mutants (I47N, D164 and S320N) obtained from E.coli as recombinant proteins. The corresponding mutations, i.e., c.140T>A, c.491A>T and c.959G>A, have been identified in patients with PGK deficiency and affected by severe hemolytic anemia and progressive mental retardation. The cDNA encoding the PGK1 was prepared starting from a blood sample of a healthy donor, with normal PGK1 activity. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to introduce the desired mutations into the PGK1 cDNA. The wild type enzyme was expressed to its maximum level (about 80–100 mg of enzyme per liter of culture) after 5 hours of induction with 0.5 mM IPTG at 37 °C. For mutant enzymes the induction temperature was lowered to 25°C. All recombinant enzymes were purified to homogeneity after a single chromatographic step on DEAE Sepharose column. The wild-type enzyme was crystallized in both free form or complexed with 3-PG. The corresponding structures were solved to high resolution (1.8 and 1.6 A, respectively) and compared. Essentially, binding 3-PG caused a 6° rotation of the N-domain in respect to the C-domain. The recombinant enzyme exhibited kinetic properties similar to those of the authentic enzyme, displaying vs 3-PG and ATP alike specific activities (about 1000 U/mg) and alike Km values (about 1mM). I47N and S320N mutant enzymes showed kcat values 3-fold lower than the wild-type enzyme. The D164V was characterized by a Km value vs 3-PG 15 times higher than that of the other enzymes studied and a catalytic efficiency 70 times lower. Finally, all mutant enzymes turned out to be highly heat unstable with respect to the wildtype enzyme, losing half of their activity after approximately 10 minutes of incubation at 37 °C. At higher temperatures, the wild-type enzyme was protected from heat inactivation by Mg-ATP or 3-PG. On the contrary, no one mutant was protect by Mg-ATP and the D164V and S320N mutants were not even protected by 3-PG. Therefore, these preliminary studies indicate that all mutations target amino acid residues located in positions primarily important for preserving the protein stability during the red cell life span.

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