Residues required for activity in Escherichia coli o-succinylbenzoate synthase (OSBS) are not conserved in all OSBS enzymes. Academic Article uri icon


  • Understanding how enzyme specificity evolves will provide guiding principles for protein engineering and function prediction. The o-succinylbenzoate synthase (OSBS) family is an excellent model system for elucidating these principles because it has many highly divergent amino acid sequences that are <20% identical, and some members have evolved a second function. The OSBS family belongs to the enolase superfamily, members of which use a set of conserved residues to catalyze a wide variety of reactions. These residues are the only conserved residues in the OSBS family, so they are not sufficient to determine reaction specificity. Some enzymes in the OSBS family catalyze another reaction, N-succinylamino acid racemization (NSAR). NSARs cannot be segregated into a separate family because their sequences are highly similar to those of known OSBSs, and many of them have both OSBS and NSAR activities. To determine how such divergent enzymes can catalyze the same reaction and how NSAR activity evolved, we divided the OSBS family into subfamilies and compared the divergence of their active site residues. Correlating sequence conservation with the effects of mutations in Escherichia coli OSBS identified two nonconserved residues (R159 and G288) at which mutations decrease efficiency 200-fold. These residues are not conserved in the subfamily that includes NSAR enzymes. The OSBS/NSAR subfamily binds the substrate in a different orientation, eliminating selective pressure to retain arginine and glycine at these positions. This supports the hypothesis that specificity-determining residues have diverged in the OSBS family and provides insight into the sequence changes required for the evolution of NSAR activity.

published proceedings

  • Biochemistry

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhu, W. W., Wang, C., Jipp, J., Ferguson, L., Lucas, S. N., Hicks, M. A., & Glasner, M. E.

citation count

  • 13

publication date

  • January 2012