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The Crystal Structure and Activity of a Putative Trypanosomal Nucleoside Phosphorylase Reveal It to be a Homodimeric Uridine Phosphorylase

Journal of Molecular Biology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jmb.2010.01.013
  • Nucleoside Phosphorylase
  • Pyrimidine Salvage
  • Nucleotide Metabolism
  • Sleeping Sickness
  • Gene Annotation
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine


Abstract Purine nucleoside phosphorylases (PNPs) and uridine phosphorylases (UPs) are closely related enzymes involved in purine and pyrimidine salvage, respectively, which catalyze the removal of the ribosyl moiety from nucleosides so that the nucleotide base may be recycled. Parasitic protozoa generally are incapable of de novo purine biosynthesis; hence, the purine salvage pathway is of potential therapeutic interest. Information about pyrimidine biosynthesis in these organisms is much more limited. Though all seem to carry at least a subset of enzymes from each pathway, the dependency on de novo pyrimidine synthesis versus salvage varies from organism to organism and even from one growth stage to another. We have structurally and biochemically characterized a putative nucleoside phosphorylase (NP) from the pathogenic protozoan Trypanosoma brucei and find that it is a homodimeric UP. This is the first characterization of a UP from a trypanosomal source despite this activity being observed decades ago. Although this gene was broadly annotated as a putative NP, it was widely inferred to be a purine nucleoside phosphorylase. Our characterization of this trypanosomal enzyme shows that it is possible to distinguish between PNP and UP activity at the sequence level based on the absence or presence of a characteristic UP-specificity insert. We suggest that this recognizable feature may aid in proper annotation of the substrate specificity of enzymes in the NP family.

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