In the pentose phosphate pathway, carbohydrates such as glucose and ribose are degraded with production of reductive power and energy. Another important function is to produce essential pentoses, such as ribose 5-phosphate, which later can be used in biosynthesis of nucleic acids and cofactors.
This thesis presents structural and functional studies on three enzymes involved in ribose metabolism in Escherichia coli.
Ribokinase is an enzyme that phosphorylates ribose in the presence of ATP and magnesium, as the first step of exogenous ribose metabolism. Two important aspects of ribokinase function, not previously known, have been elucidated. Ribokinase was shown to be activated by monovalent cations, specifically potassium. Structural analysis of the monovalent ion binding site indicates that the ion has a structural rather than catalytic role; a mode of activation involving a conformational change has been suggested. Product inhibition studies suggest that ATP is the first substrate to bind the enzyme. Independent Kd measurements with the ATP analogue AMP-PCP support this. The results presented here will have implications for several enzymes in the protein family to which ribokinase belongs, in particular the medically interesting enzyme adenosine kinase.
Ribose 5-phosphate isomerases convert ribose 5-phosphate into ribulose 5-phosphate or vice versa. Structural studies on the two genetically distinct isomerases in E. coli have shown them to be fundamentally different in many aspects, including active site architecture. However, a kinetic study has demonstrated both enzymes to be efficient in terms of catalysis. Sequence searches of completed genomes show ribose 5-phosphate isomerase B to be the sole isomerase in many bacteria, although ribose 5-phosphate isomerase A is a nearly universal enzyme. All genomes contain at least one of the two enzymes. These results confirm that both enzymes must be independently capable of supporting ribose metabolism, a fact that had not previously been established.