High-resolution structural studies of Kynurenine 3-Monooxygenase
Taylor, Mark Robert Duncan
The kynurenine pathway produces NAD+ from L-tryptophan. Metabolites known as the kynurenines are produced within the pathway. The effects of the kynurenines have been associated with a number of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and acute pancreatitis. Kynurenine monooxygenase (KMO) is an enzyme that catalyses the conversion of L-kynurenine to 3-hydroxy-L-kynurenine, the downstream product of which is the neurotoxic quinolinic acid. L-kynurenine is positioned at a branching point within the pathway. Metabolism via KMO leads to quinolinic acid production whereas conversion via kynurenine aminotransferase (KAT) produces the neuroprotective kynurenic acid. Inhibition of KMO leads to an increase in kynurenic acid concentration. This has also been shown to ameliorate the symptoms of neurological diseases in a number of animal models as well as to protect against multiple organ dysfunction caused by acute pancreatitis in rodent models. These findings present KMO as a promising drug target. Due to the hydrophobic nature of human KMO (hKMO) it has been necessary to utilise other forms of KMO as models. Past studies have produced crystal structures of a truncated Saccharomyces cerevisiae KMO and of Pseudomonas fluorescens KMO (PfKMO). Previous work in this research group has resulted in the structure of variants of PfKMO bound to either inhibitor molecules or substrate. These structures identified residues involved in substrate binding and the presence of a highly mobile section of the C-terminus, giving rise to open and closed conformations. It was surmised the movement of the C-terminus was dependent upon the presence of substrate and an interactive network between the C-terminus and the rest of the protein. Using improved crystallising conditions high-resolution structures of PfKMO have been produced that allow for further study of residues involved in substrate binding and the interactive network within the C-terminus. The mutants R84K and Y404F showed severely decreased enzyme activity. Crystal structures of these proteins showed disrupted interactions between substrate and active site. These findings underline the importance of residues R84 and Y404 in substrate binding. An H320F mutation gives an analogous active site to hKMO. Crystallographic and kinetic study of this mutant proved very similar to PfKMO, supporting the use of PfKMO as a model for hKMO. Throughout the work each structure had a P21221 space group with two molecules in the asymmetric unit. The presence of an open and closed molecule within each structure, including substrate-free molecules refuted the connection between C-terminus and substrate. R386K and E372T mutations were separately introduced in order to interrupt the interactive network. The presence of both open and closed conformations in the structures of R386K and E372T refutes the necessity for the interactive network in C-terminus movement. The data analysed throughout the project suggest simple mobility and thermal motion as the cause of the movement of the C-terminus. This work, in conjunction with kinetic data from the thesis of Helen Bell, presents structural data to characterise the role of binding residues within the active site of KMO as well as the mechanistic role of the C-terminus. It also highlights the importance of certain binding residues and countered the previously held hypotheses surrounding the significance of the C-terminus. The mechanistic role of the C-terminus therefore remains unclear and requires further study.