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Recruiting Mechanism and Functional Role of a Third Metal Ion in the Enzymatic Activity of 5′ Structure-Specific Nucleases

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journal contribution
posted on 27.01.2020 by Elisa Donati, Vito Genna, Marco De Vivo
Enzymes of the 5′ structure-specific nuclease family are crucial for DNA repair, replication, and recombination. One such enzyme is the human exonuclease 1 (hExo1) metalloenzyme, which cleaves DNA strands, acting primarily as a processive 5′-3′ exonuclease and secondarily as a 5′-flap endonuclease. Recently, in crystallo reaction intermediates have elucidated how hExo1 exerts hydrolysis of DNA phosphodiester bonds. These hExo1 structures show a third metal ion intermittently bound close to the two-metal-ion active site, to which recessed ends or 5′-flap substrates bind. Evidence of this third ion has been observed in several nucleic-acid-processing metalloenzymes. However, there is still debate over what triggers the (un)­binding of this transient third ion during catalysis and whether this ion has a catalytic function. Using extended molecular dynamics and enhanced sampling free-energy simulations, we observed that the carboxyl side chain of Glu89 (located along the arch motif in hExo1) flips frequently from the reactant state to the product state. The conformational flipping of Glu89 allows one metal ion to be recruited from the bulk and promptly positioned near the catalytic center. This is in line with the structural evidence. Additionally, our simulations show that the third metal ion assists the departure, through the mobile arch, of the nucleotide monophosphate product from the catalytic site. Structural comparisons of nuclease enzymes suggest that this Glu­(Asp)-mediated mechanism for third ion recruitment and nucleic acid hydrolysis may be shared by other 5′ structure-specific nucleases.

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