Uracil DNA glycosylase: Revisiting substrate-assisted catalysis by DNA phosphate anions

Jared B. Parker, James T. Stivers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Uracil DNA glycosylase (UNG) is a powerful DNA repair enzyme that has been shown to stabilize a glycosyl cation reaction intermediate and a related tight binding inhibitor using electrostatic interactions with the +1 and -1, but not the +2, phosphodiester group of the single-stranded DNA substrate Ap 2+Ap1+Up1-ApA. These experimental results differed considerably from computational findings using duplex DNA, where the +2 phosphate was found to stabilize the transition state by ∼5 kcal/mol, suggesting that UNG uses different catalytic strategies with single-stranded and double-stranded DNA substrates. In addition, the computational studies indicated that the conserved and positively charged His148 (which hydrogen bonds to the +2 phosphate) destabilized the glycosyl cation intermediate by 6-8 kcal/mol through anticatalytic electrostatic interactions. To evaluate these interesting proposals, we measured the kinetic effects of neutral methylphosphonate (MeP) stereoisomers at the +1 and +2 positions of a 12-mer dsDNA substrate and also the catalytic contribution and ionization state of His148. For MeP substitutions at the +1 position, single-turnover kinetic studies showed that the activation barrier was increased by 9.8 and 3.1 kcal/mol, corresponding to a stereoselectivity of nearly 40000-fold for the respective MeP isomers. Identical to the findings with ssDNA, MeP substitutions at the +2 position resulted in only small changes in the activation barrier (±0.3 kcal/mol), with little stereoselectivity (∼4-fold). However, the H148A mutation destabilizes both the ground state and transition states by 2.4 and 4.3 kcal/mol, respectively. Thus, His148 is catalytic because it stabilizes the transition state to a greater extent (1.9 kcal/mol) than the ground state. Heteronuclear NMR studies established that His148 was neutral in the free enzyme at neutral pH, and in conformational exchange in a specific DNA complex containing uracil. We conclude that the +1 and +2 phosphate esters play identical catalytic roles in the reactions of single-stranded and double-stranded DNA substrates, and that His148 serves a catalytic role by positioning the substrate and catalytic water, or by an environmental effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8614-8622
Number of pages9
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 19 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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