Catalytic promiscuity is the coincidental ability to catalyze non-biological reactions in the same active site as the native biological reaction. Several lines of evidence show that catalytic promiscuity plays a role in the evolution of new enzyme functions. Thus, studying catalytic promiscuity can help identify structural features that predispose an enzyme to evolve new functions. This study identifies such a pre-adaptive residue in an
N-succinylamino acid racemase/ o-succinylbenzoate synthase (NSAR/OSBS) enzymes from the NSAR/OSBS subfamily. Previously, we identified a point mutation, R266Q, in the catalytically promiscuous Amycolatopsissp. T-1-60 NSAR/OSBS that has a deleterious effect on NSAR activity with a lesser effect on OSBS activity (Truong et al., in preparation). We demonstrated that R266 was a pre-adaptive feature that enabled the emergence and evolution of NSAR activity in AmyNSAR/OSBS. We examined the role of the residue R266 in the evolution of NSAR activity by examining the effects of the single substitution R266Q in other members of the NSAR/OSBS subfamily including Enterococcus faecalisNSAR/OSBS, Roseiflexus castenholziiNSAR/OSBS, Lysinibacillus variansNSAR/OSBS, and Listeria innocuaNSAR/OSBS, which have been previously characterized to carry out both OSBS and NSAR activities efficiently. RcNSAR/OSBS, LvNSAR/OSBS, EfNSAR/OSBS, and LiNSAR/OSBS are 49, 48, 32, and 28% identical, respectively, to AmyNSAR/OSBS. We found that while the R266Q mutation decreases NSAR activity more than OSBS activity, as expected, in most NSAR/OSBS members, the differential effects of the R266Q substitution on NSAR and OSBS activities are not as striking as observed in AmyNSAR/OSBS. In some homologs, the R266Q mutation has very deleterious effects on both OSBS and NSAR activities. Furthermore, the mutation unexpectedly decreases OSBS activity more than NSAR activity in LiNSAR/OSBS. Thus, the effects of R266Q on NSAR and OSBS activities depend on differences in sequence context between members of the NSAR/OSBS subfamily, demonstrating the complex role of epistasis in the evolution of NSAR activity in the NSAR/OSBS subfamily.