Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol.141, No.46, 18380-18384, 2019
General Base Swap Preserves Activity and Expands Substrate Tolerance in Hedgehog Autoprocessing
Hedgehog (Hh) autoprocessing converts Hh precursor protein to cholesterylated Hh ligand for downstream signaling. A conserved active-site aspartate residue, D46, plays a key catalytic role in Hh autoprocessing by serving as a general base to activate substrate cholesterol. Here we report that a charge altering Asp-to-His mutant (D46H) expands native cholesterylation activity and retains active-site conformation. Native activity toward cholesterol was established for D46H in vitro using a continuous FRET-based autoprocessing assay and in cellulo with stable expression in human 293T cells. The catalytic efficiency of cholesterylation with D46H is similar to that with wild type (WT), with k(max)/K-M = 2.1 X 10(3) and 3.7 x 10(3) M-1 s(-1), respectively, and an identical pK(a) = 5.8 is obtained for both residues by NMR. To our knowledge this is the first example where a general base substitution of an Asp for His preserves both the structure and activity as a general base. Surprisingly, D46H exhibits increased catalytic efficiency toward non-native substrates, especially coprostanol (>200-fold) and epicoprostanol (>300-fold). Expanded substrate tolerance is likely due to stabilization by H46 of the negatively charged tetrahedral intermediate using electrostatic interactions, which are less constrained by geometry than H-bond stabilization by D46. In addition to providing fundamental insights into Hh autoprocessing, our findings have important implications for protein engineering and enzyme design.