Synchronization of the three reaction centers within carbamoyl phosphate synthetase. Academic Article uri icon


  • Carbamoyl phosphate synthetase from E. coli catalyzes the synthesis of carbamoyl phosphate through a series of four reactions occurring at three active sites connected by a molecular tunnel of 100 A. To understand the mechanism for coordination and synchronization among the active sites, the pre-steady-state time courses for the formation of phosphate, ADP, glutamate, and carbamoyl phosphate were determined. When bicarbonate and ATP were rapidly mixed with CPS, a stoichiometric burst of acid-labile phosphate and ADP was observed with a formation rate constant of 1100 min(-)(1). The burst phase was followed by a linear steady-state phase with a rate constant of 12 min(-)(1). When glutamine or ammonia was added to the initial reaction mixture, the magnitude and the rate of formation of the burst phase for either phosphate or ADP were unchanged, but the rate constant for the linear steady-state phase increased to an average value of 78 min(-)(1). These results demonstrate that the initial phosphorylation of bicarbonate is independent of the binding or hydrolysis of glutamine. The pre-steady-state time course for the hydrolysis of glutamine in the absence of ATP exhibited a burst of glutamate formation with a rate constant of 4 min(-)(1) when the reaction was quenched with base. In the presence of ATP and bicarbonate, the rate constant for the formation of the burst of glutamate was 1100 min(-)(1). The hydrolysis of ATP thus enhanced the hydrolysis of glutamine by a factor of 275, but there was no effect by glutamine on the initial phosphorylation of bicarbonate. The pre-steady-state time course for the formation of carbamoyl phosphate was linear with an overall rate constant of 72 min(-)(1). The absence of an initial burst of carbamoyl phosphate formation eliminates product release as a rate-determining step for CPS. Overall, these results have been interpreted to be consistent with a mechanism whereby the phosphorylation of bicarbonate serves as the initial trigger for the rest of the reaction cascade. The formation of the carboxy phosphate intermediate within the large subunit must induce a conformational change to the active site of the small subunit that enhances the hydrolysis of glutamine. Thus, ammonia is not released into the molecular tunnel until the activated bicarbonate is ready to form carbamate. The rate-limiting step for the steady-state assembly of carbamoyl phosphate is either the formation, migration, or phosphorylation of the carbamate intermediate.

published proceedings

  • Biochemistry

author list (cited authors)

  • Miles, B. W., & Raushel, F. M.

citation count

  • 31

complete list of authors

  • Miles, BW||Raushel, FM

publication date

  • May 2000