Factors modulating conformational equilibria in large modular proteins: A case study with cobalamin-dependent methionine synthase

Vahe Bandarian, Martha L. Ludwig, Rowena G. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


In the course of catalysis or signaling, large multimodular proteins often undergo conformational changes that reposition the modules with respect to one another. The mechanisms that direct the reorganization of modules in these proteins are of considerable importance, but distinguishing alternate conformations is a challenge. Cobalamin-dependent methionine synthase (MetH) is a 136-kDa multimodular enzyme with a cobalamin chromophore; the color of the cobalamin reflects the conformation of the protein. The enzyme contains four modules and catalyzes three different methyl transfer reactions that require different arrangements of these modules. Two of these methyl transfer reactions occur during turnover, when homocysteine is converted to methionine by using a methyl group derived from methyltetrahydrofolate. The third reaction is occasionally required for reactivation of the enzyme and uses S-adenosyl-L-methionine as the methyl donor. The absorbance properties of the cobalamin cofactor have been exploited to assign conformations of the protein and to probe the effect of ligands and mutations on the distribution of conformers. The results imply that the methylcobalamin form of MetH exists as an ensemble of interconverting conformational states. Differential binding of substrates or products alters the distribution of conformers. Furthermore, steric conflicts disfavor conformers that juxtapose a methyl group on substrate with one on methylcobalamin. These results suggest that the methylation state of the cobalamin will influence the distribution of conformers during turnover.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8156-8163
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 8 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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