Structures of apo and product-bound human L-asparaginase: insights into the mechanism of autoproteolysis and substrate hydrolysis.
ABSTRACT: Asparaginases catalyze the hydrolysis of the amino acid asparagine to aspartate and ammonia. Bacterial asparaginases are used in cancer chemotherapy to deplete asparagine from the blood, because several hematological malignancies depend on extracellular asparagine for growth. To avoid the immune response against the bacterial enzymes, it would be beneficial to replace them with human asparaginases. However, unlike the bacterial asparaginases, the human enzymes have a millimolar K(m) value for asparagine, making them inefficient in depleting the amino acid from blood. To facilitate the development of human variants suitable for therapeutic use, we determined the structure of human l-asparaginase (hASNase3). This asparaginase is an N-terminal nucleophile (Ntn) family member that requires autocleavage between Gly167 and Thr168 to become catalytically competent. For most Ntn hydrolases, this autoproteolytic activation occurs efficiently. In contrast, hASNas3 is relatively stable in its uncleaved state, and this allowed us to observe the structure of the enzyme prior to cleavage. To determine the structure of the cleaved state, we exploited our discovery that the free amino acid glycine promotes complete cleavage of hASNase3. Both enzyme states were elucidated in the absence and presence of the product aspartate. Together, these structures provide insight into the conformational changes required for cleavage and the precise enzyme-substrate interactions. The new understanding of hASNase3 will serve to guide the design of variants that possess a decreased K(m) value for asparagine, making the human enzyme a suitable replacement for the bacterial asparaginases in cancer therapy.
Project description:Our long-term goal is the design of a human l-asparaginase (hASNase3) variant, suitable for use in cancer therapy without the immunogenicity problems associated with the currently used bacterial enzymes. Asparaginases catalyze the hydrolysis of the amino acid asparagine to aspartate and ammonia. The key property allowing for the depletion of blood asparagine by bacterial asparaginases is their low micromolar KM value. In contrast, human enzymes have a millimolar KM for asparagine. Toward the goal of engineering an hASNase3 variant with micromolar KM, we conducted a structure/function analysis of the conserved catalytic threonine triad of this human enzyme. As a member of the N-terminal nucleophile family, to become enzymatically active, hASNase3 must undergo autocleavage between residues Gly167 and Thr168. To determine the individual contribution of each of the three conserved active-site threonines (threonine triad Thr168, Thr186, Thr219) for the enzyme-activating autocleavage and asparaginase reactions, we prepared the T168S, T186V and T219A/V mutants. These mutants were tested for their ability to cleave and to catalyze asparagine hydrolysis, in addition to being examined structurally. We also elucidated the first N-terminal nucleophile plant-type asparaginase structure in the covalent intermediate state. Our studies indicate that, while not all triad threonines are required for the cleavage reaction, all are essential for the asparaginase activity. The increased understanding of hASNase3 function resulting from these studies reveals the key regions that govern cleavage and the asparaginase reaction, which may inform the design of variants that attain a low KM for asparagine.
Project description:The human asparaginase-like protein 1 (hASRGL1) catalyzes the hydrolysis of l-asparagine and isoaspartyl-dipeptides. As an N-terminal nucleophile (Ntn) hydrolase superfamily member, the active form of hASRGL1 is generated by an intramolecular cleavage step with Thr168 as the catalytic residue. However, in vitro, autoprocessing is incomplete (~50%), fettering the biophysical characterization of hASRGL1. We circumvented this obstacle by constructing a circularly permuted hASRGL1 that uncoupled the autoprocessing reaction, allowing us to kinetically and structurally characterize this enzyme and the precursor-like hASRGL1-Thr168Ala variant. Crystallographic and biochemical evidence suggest an activation mechanism where a torsional restraint on the Thr168 side chain helps drive the intramolecular processing reaction. Cleavage and formation of the active site releases the torsional restriction on Thr168, which is facilitated by a small conserved Gly-rich loop near the active site that allows the conformational changes necessary for activation.
Project description:Herein we report the bacterial expression, purification, and enzymatic characterization of the human asparaginase-like protein 1 (hASRGL1). We present evidence that hASRGL1 exhibits beta-aspartyl peptidase activity consistent with enzymes designated as plant-type asparaginases, which had thus far been found in only plants and bacteria. Similar to nonmammalian plant-type asparaginases, hASRGL1 is shown to be an Ntn hydrolase for which Thr168 serves as the essential N-terminal nucleophile for intramolecular processing and catalysis, corroborated in part by abolishment of both activities through the Thr168Ala point mutation. In light of the activity profile reported here, ASRGL1s may act synergistically with protein l-isoaspartyl methyl transferase to relieve accumulation of potentially toxic isoaspartyl peptides in mammalian brain and other tissues.
Project description:We investigated whether an uncharacterized protein from guinea pig could be the enzyme behind Kidd's serendipitous discovery, made over 60 years ago, that guinea pig serum has cell killing ability. It has been long known that an enzyme with l-asparaginase activity is responsible for cell killing, although astonishingly, its identity remains unclear. Bacterial asparaginases with similar cell killing properties have since become a mainstay therapy of certain cancers such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. By hydrolyzing asparagine to aspartate and ammonia, these drugs deplete the asparagine present in the blood, killing cancer cells that rely on extracellular asparagine uptake for survival. However, bacterial asparaginases can elicit an adverse immune response. We propose that replacement of bacterial enzymes with the guinea pig asparaginase responsible for serum activity, by its virtue of being more closely related to human enzymes, will be less immunogenic. To this goal, we investigated whether an uncharacterized protein from guinea pig with putative asparaginase activity, which we call gpASNase3, could be that enzyme. We examined its self-activation process (gpASNase3 requires autocleavage to become active), kinetically characterized it for asparaginase and ?-aspartyl dipeptidase activity, and elucidated its crystal structure in both the uncleaved and cleaved states. This work reveals that gpASNase3 is not the enzyme responsible for the antitumor effects of guinea pig serum. It exhibits a low affinity for asparagine as measured by a high Michaelis constant, KM, in the millimolar range, in contrast to the low KM (micromolar range) required for asparaginase to be effective as an anticancer agent.
Project description:Human asparaginase 3 (hASNase3), which belongs to the N-terminal nucleophile hydrolase superfamily, is synthesized as a single polypeptide that is devoid of asparaginase activity. Intramolecular autoproteolytic processing releases the amino group of Thr168, a moiety required for catalyzing asparagine hydrolysis. Recombinant hASNase3 purifies as the uncleaved, asparaginase-inactive form and undergoes self-cleavage to the active form at a very slow rate. Here, we show that the free amino acid glycine selectively acts to accelerate hASNase3 cleavage both in vitro and in human cells. Other small amino acids such as alanine, serine, or the substrate asparagine are not capable of promoting autoproteolysis. Crystal structures of hASNase3 in complex with glycine in the uncleaved and cleaved enzyme states reveal the mechanism of glycine-accelerated posttranslational processing and explain why no other amino acid can substitute for glycine.
Project description:L-asparaginase is a chemotherapy drug used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The main prerequisite for clinical efficacy of L-asparaginases is micromolar KM for asparagine to allow for complete depletion of this amino acid in the blood. Since currently approved L-asparaginases are of bacterial origin, immunogenicity is a challenge, which would be mitigated by a human enzyme. However, all human L-asparaginases have millimolar KM for asparagine. We recently identified the low KM guinea pig L-asparaginase (gpASNase1). Because gpASNase1 and human L-asparaginase 1 (hASNase1) share ~70% amino-acid identity, we decided to humanize gpASNase1 by generating chimeras with hASNase1 through DNA shuffling. To identify low KM chimeras we developed a suitable bacterial selection system (E. coli strain BW5?). Transforming BW5? with the shuffling libraries allowed for the identification of several low KM clones. To further humanize these clones, the C-terminal domain of gpASNase1 was replaced with that of hASNase1. Two of the identified clones, 63N-hC and 65N-hC, share respectively 85.7% and 87.1% identity with the hASNase1 but have a KM similar to gpASNase1. These clones possess 100-140 fold enhanced catalytic efficiency compared to hASNase1. Notably, we also show that these highly human-like L-asparaginases maintain their in vitro ALL killing potential.
Project description:l-Asparaginases of bacterial origin are a mainstay of acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment. The mechanism of action of these enzyme drugs is associated with their capacity to deplete the amino acid l-asparagine from the blood. However, clinical use of bacterial l-asparaginases is complicated by their dual l-asparaginase and l-glutaminase activities. The latter, even though representing only ?10% of the overall activity, is partially responsible for the observed toxic side effects. Hence, l-asparaginases devoid of l-glutaminase activity hold potential as safer drugs. Understanding the key determinants of l-asparaginase substrate specificity is a prerequisite step toward the development of enzyme variants with reduced toxicity. Here we present crystal structures of the Erwinia chrysanthemi l-asparaginase in complex with l-aspartic acid and with l-glutamic acid. These structures reveal two enzyme conformations-open and closed-corresponding to the inactive and active states, respectively. The binding of ligands induces the positioning of the catalytic Thr15 into its active conformation, which in turn allows for the ordering and closure of the flexible N-terminal loop. Notably, l-aspartic acid is more efficient than l-glutamic acid in inducing the active positioning of Thr15. Structural elements explaining the preference of the enzyme for l-asparagine over l-glutamine are discussed with guidance to the future development of more specific l-asparaginases.
Project description:The initial observation that guinea pig serum kills lymphoma cells marks the serendipitous discovery of a new class of anti-cancer agents. The serum cell killing factor was shown to be an enzyme with L-asparaginase (ASNase) activity. As a direct result of this observation, several bacterial L-asparaginases were developed and are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of the subset of hematological malignancies that are dependent on the extracellular pool of the amino acid asparagine. As drugs, these enzymes act to hydrolyze asparagine to aspartate, thereby starving the cancer cells of this amino acid. Prior to the work presented here, the precise identity of this guinea pig enzyme has not been reported in the peer-reviewed literature. We discovered that the guinea pig enzyme annotated as H0W0T5_CAVPO, which we refer to as gpASNase1, has the required low Km property consistent with that possessed by the cell-killing guinea pig serum enzyme. Elucidation of the ligand-free and aspartate complex gpASNase1 crystal structures allows a direct comparison with the bacterial enzymes and serves to explain the lack of L-glutaminase activity in the guinea pig enzyme. The structures were also used to generate a homology model for the human homolog hASNase1 and to help explain its vastly different kinetic properties compared with gpASNase1, despite a 70% sequence identity. Given that the bacterial enzymes frequently present immunogenic and other toxic side effects, this work suggests that gpASNase1 could be a promising alternative to these bacterial enzymes.
Project description:Bacterial L-asparaginases play an important role in the treatment of certain types of blood cancers. We are exploring the guinea pig L-asparaginase (gpASNase1) as a potential replacement of the immunogenic bacterial enzymes. The exact mechanism used by L-asparaginases to catalyze the hydrolysis of asparagine into aspartic acid and ammonia has been recently put into question. Earlier experimental data suggested that the reaction proceeds via a covalent intermediate using a ping-pong mechanism, whereas recent computational work advocates the direct displacement of the amine by an activated water. To shed light on this controversy, we generated gpASNase1 mutants of conserved active site residues (T19A, T116A, T19A/T116A, K188M, and Y308F) suspected to play a role in hydrolysis. Using x-ray crystallography, we determined the crystal structures of the T19A, T116A, and K188M mutants soaked in asparagine. We also characterized their steady-state kinetic properties and analyzed the conversion of asparagine to aspartate using NMR. Our structures reveal bound asparagine in the active site that has unambiguously not formed a covalent intermediate. Kinetic and NMR assays detect significant residual activity for all of the mutants. Furthermore, no burst of ammonia production was observed that would indicate covalent intermediate formation and the presence of a ping-pong mechanism. Hence, despite using a variety of techniques, we were unable to obtain experimental evidence that would support the formation of a covalent intermediate. Consequently, our observations support a direct displacement rather than a ping-pong mechanism for l-asparaginases.