A stringent test for the nucleotide switch mechanism of carbamoyl phosphate synthetase. Academic Article uri icon


  • Carbamoyl phosphate synthetase (CPS) catalyzes the formation of carbamoyl phosphate from bicarbonate, glutamine, and two molecules of MgATP. The X-ray crystal structure of the enzyme has revealed that the two nucleotide binding sites are separated by approximately 35 A. Isotopic oxygen exchange of 18O and 16O between solvent water and [13C]bicarbonate was measured using 13C NMR spectroscopy during substrate turnover in the presence and absence of glutamine as a nitrogen source. In the absence of added glutamine, CPS catalyzed the exchange of one oxygen atom from bicarbonate with solvent water during every turnover of the bicarbonate-dependent ATPase reaction. In the presence of added glutamine, there was no exchange of solvent water with bicarbonate during the enzymatic synthesis of carbamoyl phosphate, indicating that any carbon-containing intermediate in the reaction mechanism is committed to the formation of carbamoyl phosphate and is not subject to hydrolysis. These results are fully consistent with a chemical mechanism that requires the physical migration of the carbamate intermediate from the site of its formation within one of the nucleotide binding domains to the other nucleotide binding domain for subsequent phosphorylation by the second MgATP. These results are not compatible with a nucleotide switch mechanism. The nucleotide switch mechanism includes the synthesis of carbamoyl phosphate entirely within a single nucleotide binding domain and concurrent conformational changes driven by the bicarbonate-dependent hydrolysis of MgATP at the second nucleotide binding domain.

published proceedings

  • Biochemistry

author list (cited authors)

  • Raushel, F. M., Mullins, L. S., & Gibson, G. E.

citation count

  • 16

complete list of authors

  • Raushel, FM||Mullins, LS||Gibson, GE

publication date

  • July 1998