• dimeric enzyme stability;
  • arginine residues in protein–protein interactions;
  • aggregation of multimeric enzymes;
  • thymidylate synthase


The significance of two interface arginine residues on the structural integrity of an obligatory dimeric enzyme thymidylate synthase (TS) from Lactobacillus casei was investigated by thermal and chemical denaturation. While the R178F mutant showed apparent stability to thermal denaturation by its decreased tendency to aggregate, the Tm of the R218K mutant was lowered by 5°C. Equilibrium denaturation studies in guanidinium chloride (GdmCl) and urea indicate that in both the mutants, replacement of Arg residues results in more labile quaternary and tertiary interactions. Circular dichroism studies in aqueous buffer suggest that the protein interior in R218K may be less well-packed as compared to the wild type protein. The results emphasize that quaternary interactions may influence the stability of the tertiary fold of TS. The amino acid replacements also lead to notable alteration in the ability of the unfolding intermediate of TS to aggregate. The aggregated state of partially unfolded intermediate in the R178F mutant is stable over a narrower range of denaturant concentrations. In contrast, there is an exaggerated tendency on the part of R218K to aggregate in intermediate concentrations of the denaturant. The 3 Å crystal structure of the R178F mutant reveals no major structural change as a consequence of amino acid substitution. The results may be rationalized in terms of mutational effects on both the folded and unfolded state of the protein. Site specific amino acid substitutions are useful in identifying specific regions of TS involved in association of non-native protein structures. Proteins 1999;34:356–368. © 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.