Biotin synthase (BS) is an AdoMet-dependent radical enzyme that catalyzes the insertion of sulfur into saturated C6 and C9 atoms in the substrate dethiobiotin. To facilitate sulfur insertion, BS catalyzes the reductive cleavage of AdoMet to methionine and 5′-deoxyadenosyl radicals, which then abstract hydrogen atoms from the C6 and C9 positions of dethiobiotin. The enzyme from Escherichia coli is purified as a dimer that contains one [2Fe-2S]2+ cluster per monomer and can be reconstituted in vitro to contain an additional [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster per monomer. Since each monomer contains each type of cluster, the dimeric enzyme could contain one active site per monomer, or could contain a single active site at the dimer interface. To address these possibilities, and to better understand the manner in which biotin synthase controls radical generation and reactivity, we have examined the binding of AdoMet and DTB to reconstituted biotin synthase. We find that both the [2Fe-2S]2+ cluster and the [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster must be present for tight substrate binding. Further, substrate binding is highly cooperative, with the affinity for AdoMet increasing >20-fold in the presence of DTB, while DTB binds only in the presence of AdoMet. The stoichiometry of binding is ca. 2:1:1 AdoMet:DTB:BS dimer, suggesting that biotin synthase has a single functional active site per dimer. AdoMet binding, either in the presence or in the absence of DTB, leads to a decrease in the magnitude of the UV - visible absorption band at ∼400 nm that we attribute to changes in the coordination environment of the [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster. Using these spectral changes as a probe, we have examined the kinetics of AdoMet and DTB binding, and propose an ordered binding mechanism that is followed by a conformational change in the enzyme - substrate complex. This kinetic analysis suggests that biotin synthase is evolved to bind AdoMet both weakly and slowly in the absence of DTB, while both the rate of binding and the affinity for AdoMet are increased in the presence of DTB. Cooperative binding of AdoMet and DTB may be an important mechanism for limiting the production of 5′-deoxyadenosyl radicals in the absence of the correct substrate.
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