Essential cysteine residues for human RNase κ catalytic activity


D. C. Sideris, University of Athens, Faculty of Biology, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Panepistimioupolis, 15701 Athens, Greece
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Human RNase κ is an endoribonuclease expressed in almost all tissues and organs and belongs to a highly conserved protein family bearing representatives in all metazoans. To gain insight into the role of cysteine residues in the enzyme activity or structure, a recombinant active form of human RNase κ expressed in Pichia pastoris was treated with alkylating agents and dithiothreitol (DTT). Our results showed that the human enzyme is inactivated by DDT, while it remains fully active in the presence of alkylating agents. The unreduced recombinant protein migrates on SDS/PAGE faster than the reduced form. This observation in combination with the above findings indicated that human RNase κ does not form homodimers through disulfide bridges, and cysteine residues are not implicated in RNA catalysis but participate in the formation of intramolecular disulfide bond(s) essential for its ribonucleolytic activity. The role of the cysteine residues was further investigated by expression and study of Cys variants. Ribonucleolytic activity experiments and SDS/PAGE analysis of the wild-type and mutant proteins under reducing and non-reducing conditions demonstrated that Cys7, Cys14 and Cys85 are not essential for RNase activity. On the other hand, replacement of Cys6 or Cys69 with serine led to a complete loss of catalytic activity, indicating the necessity of these residues for maintaining an active conformation of human RNase κ by forming a disulfide bond. Due to the absolute conservation of these cysteine residues, the Cys6-Cys69 disulfide bond is likely to exist in all RNase κ family members.