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Domain crossover in the reductase subunit of NADPH-dependent assimilatory sulfite reductase

by Kevin L Weiss, Gergely Nagy
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Journal of Structural Biology
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NADPH-dependent assimilatory sulfite reductase (SiR) from Escherichia coli performs a six-electron reduction of sulfite to the bioavailable sulfide. SiR is composed of a flavoprotein (SiRFP) reductase subunit and a hemoprotein (SiRHP) oxidase subunit. There is no known high-resolution structure of SiR or SiRFP, thus we do not yet fully understand how the subunits interact to perform their chemistry. Here, we used small-angle neutron scattering to understand the impact of conformationally restricting the highly mobile SiRFP octamer into an electron accepting (closed) or electron donating (open) conformation, showing that SiR remains active, flexible, and asymmetric even with these conformational restrictions. From these scattering data, we model the first solution structure of SiRFP. Further, computational modeling of the N-terminal 52 amino acids that are responsible for SiRFP oligomerization suggests an eight-helical bundle tethers together the SiRFP subunits to form the SiR core. Finally, mass spectrometry analysis of the closed SiRFP variant show that SiRFP is capable of inter-molecular domain crossover, in which the electron donating domain from one polypeptide is able to interact directly with the electron accepting domain of another polypeptide. This structural characterization suggests that SiR performs its high-volume electron transfer through both inter- and intramolecular pathways between SiRFP domains and, thus, cis or trans transfer from reductase to oxidase subunits. Such highly redundant potential for electron transfer makes this system a potential target for designing synthetic enzymes.