Conformational flexibility is emerging as a central theme in enzyme catalysis. Thus, identifying and characterizing enzyme dynamics are critical for understanding catalytic mechanisms. Herein, coupling analysis, which uses thermodynamic analysis to assess cooperativity and coupling between distal regions on an enzyme, is used to interrogate substrate specificity among fructose-1,6-(bis)phosphate aldolase (aldolase) isozymes. Aldolase exists as three isozymes, A, B, and C, distinguished by their unique substrate preferences despite the fact that the structures of the active sites of the three isozymes are nearly identical. While conformational flexibility has been observed in aldolase A, its function in the catalytic reaction of aldolase has not been demonstrated. To explore the role of conformational dynamics in substrate specificity, those residues associated with isozyme specificity (ISRs) were swapped and the resulting chimeras were subjected to steady-state kinetics. Thermodynamic analyses suggest cooperativity between a terminal surface patch (TSP) and a distal surface patch (DSP) of ISRs that are separated by >8.9 A. Notably, the coupling energy (DeltaGI) is anticorrelated with respect to the two substrates, fructose 1,6-bisphosphate and fructose 1-phosphate. The difference in coupling energy with respect to these two substrates accounts for approximately 70% of the energy difference for the ratio of kcat/Km for the two substrates between aldolase A and aldolase B. These nonadditive mutational effects between the TSP and DSP provide functional evidence that coupling interactions arising from conformational flexibility during catalysis are a major determinant of substrate specificity.
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