Glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) is a homohexameric enzyme that catalyzes the reversible oxidative deamination of l-glutamate. While GDH is found in all living organisms, only that from animals is highly allosterically regulated by a wide array of metabolites. Because only animal GDH has a 50-residue antenna domain, we hypothesized that it was critical for allostery. To this end, we previously replaced the antenna with the loop found in bacteria, and the resulting chimera was no longer regulated by purine nucleotides. Hence, it seemed logical that the purpose of the antenna is to exert the subunit communication necessary for heterotrophic allosteric regulation. Here, we revisit the antenna deletion studies by retaining 10 more of the human GDH (hGDH) residues without adding the bacterial loop. Unexpectedly, the results were profoundly different than before. The basal activity of the mutant is only ∼13% of that of the wild type but ∼100 times more sensitive to all allosteric activators. In contrast, the mutant is still affected by all of the tested inhibitors to approximately the same degree. The resulting antenna-less mutant retained its negative cooperativity with respect to the coenzyme, again suggesting that intersubunit communication is intact. Finally, the mutant still exhibits substrate inhibition, albeit there are differences in the details. We present a model in which the majority of the antenna is not directly involved in allosteric regulation per se but rather may be responsible for improving enzymatic efficiency by acting as a conduit for substrate binding energy between subunits.
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