The role of hydrophobic active-site residues in substrate specificity and acyl transfer activity of penicillin acylase

WBL Alkema, AJ Dijkhuis, E de Vries, DB Janssen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Penicillin acylase of Escherichia colt catalyses the hydrolysis and synthesis of beta-lactam antibiotics. To study the role of hydrophobic residues in these reactions, we have mutated three active-site phenylalanines. Mutation of alphaF146, betaF24 and betaF57 to Tyr, Trp, Ala or Leu yielded mutants that were still capable of hydrolysing the chromogenic substrate 2-vitro-5-[(phenylacetyl)amino]-benzoic acid. Mutations on positions alphaF146 and betaF24 influenced both the hydrolytic and acyl transfer activity. This caused changes in the transferase/hydrolase ratios, ranging from a 40-fold decrease for alphaF146Y and alphaF146W to a threefold increase for alphaF146L and betaF24A, using 6-aminopenicillanic acid as the nucleophile. Further analysis of the betaF24A mutant showed that it had specificity constants (k(cat)/K-m) for p-hydroxyphenylglycine methyl ester and phenylglycine methyl ester that were similar to the wild-type values, whereas the specificity constants for p-hydroxyphenylglycine amide and phenylglycine amide had decreased 10-fold, due to a decreased k(cat) value. A low amidase activity was also observed for the semisynthetic penicillins amoxicillin and ampicillin and the cephalosporins cefadroxil and cephalexin, for which the kat values were fivefold to 10-fold lower than the wild-type values. The reduced specificity for the product and the high initial transferase/hydrolase ratio of betaF24A resulted in high yields in acyl transfer reactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2093-2100
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2002


  • site-directed mutagenesis
  • beta-lactam antibiotics
  • penicillin acylase
  • substrate specificity
  • transferase/hydrolase ratio

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