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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Folding and self-assembly of herpes simplex virus type 1 thymidine kinase.

Thymidine kinase from herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1 TK) has been postulated to be a homodimer throughout the X-ray crystallography literature. Our study shows that HSV1 TK exists as a monomer-dimer equilibrium mixture in dilute aqueous solutions. In the presence of 150 mM NaCl, the equilibrium is characterized by a dissociation constant of 2.4 microm; this constant was determined by analytical ultracentrifugation and gel filtration experiments. Dimerization seems to be unfavorable for enzymatic activity: dimers show inferior catalytic efficiency compared to the monomers. Moreover, soluble oligomers formed by self-assembly of TK in the absence of physiological salt concentrations are even enzymatically inactive.This study investigates enzymatic and structural relevance of the TK dimer in vitro. Dissociation of the dimers into monomers is not accompanied by large overall changes in secondary or tertiary structure as shown by thermal and urea-induced unfolding studies monitored by circular dichroism and fluorescence spectroscopy. A disulfide-bridge mutant TK (V119C) was designed bearing two cysteine residues at the dimer interface in order to crosslink the two subunits covalently. Under reducing conditions, the properties of V119C and wild-type HSV1 TK (wt HSV1 TK) were identical in terms of expression yield, denaturing SDS PAGE gel electrophoresis, enzyme kinetics, CD spectra and thermal stability. Crosslinked V119C (V119Cox) was found to have an increased thermal stability with a t(m) value of 59.1(+/-0.5) degrees C which is 16 deg. C higher than for the wild type protein. This is thought to be a consequence of the conformational restriction of the dimer interface. Furthermore, enzyme kinetic studies on V119Cox revealed a K(m) for thymidine of 0.2 microm corresponding to wt HSV1 TK, but a significantly higher K(m) for ATP. The present findings raise the question whether the monomer, not the dimer, might be the active species in vivo.[1]


  1. Folding and self-assembly of herpes simplex virus type 1 thymidine kinase. Wurth, C., Thomas, R.M., Folkers, G., Scapozza, L. J. Mol. Biol. (2001) [Pubmed]
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