Asp537, Asp812 are essential and Lys631, His811 are catalytically significant in bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase activity.


To define catalytically essential residues of bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase, we have generated five mutants of the polymerase, D537N, K631M, Y639F, H811Q and D812N, by site-directed mutagenesis and purified them to homogeneity. The choice of specific amino acids for mutagenesis was based upon photoaffinity-labeling studies with 8-azido-ATP and homology comparisons with the Klenow fragment and other DNA/RNA polymerases. Secondary structural analysis by circular dichroism indicates that the protein folding is intact in these mutants. The mutants D537N and D812N are totally inactive. The mutant K631M has 1% activity, confined to short oligonucleotide synthesis. The mutant H811Q has 25% activity for synthesis of both short and long oligonucleotides. The mutant Y639F retains full enzymatic activity although individual kinetic parameters are somewhat different. Kinetic parameters, (kcat)app and (Km)app for the nucleotides, reveal that the mutation of Lys to Met has a much more drastic effect on (kcat)app than on (Km)app, indicating the involvement of K631 primarily in phosphodiester bond formation. The mutation of His to Gln has effects on both (kcat)app and (Km)app; namely, three- to fivefold reduction in (kcat)app and two- to threefold increase in (Km)app, implying that His811 may be involved in both nucleotide binding and phosphodiester bond formation. The ability of the mutant T7 RNA polymerases to bind template has not been greatly impaired. We have shown that amino acids D537 and D812 are essential, that amino acids K631 and H811 play significant roles in catalysis, and that the active site of T7 RNA polymerase is composed of different regions of the polypeptide chain. Possible roles for these catalytically significant residues in the polymerase mechanism are discussed.




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