Background: All mononuclear molybdoenzymes bind molybdenum in a complex with an organic cofactor termed molybdopterin (MPT). In many bacteria, including Escherichia coli, molybdopterin can be further modified by attachment of a GMP group to the terminal phosphate of molybdopterin to form molybdopterin guanine dinucleotide (MGD). This modification reaction is required for the functioning of many bacterial molybdoenzymes, including the nitrate reductases, dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) and trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) reductases, and formate dehydrogenases. The GMP attachment step is catalyzed by the cellular enzyme MobA.
Results: The crystal structure of the 21.6 kDa E. coli MobA has been determined by MAD phasing with selenomethionine-substituted protein and subsequently refined at 1.35 Angstrom resolution against native data. The structure consists of a central, predominantly parallel P sheet sandwiched between two layers of a helices and resembles the dinucleotide binding Rossmann fold. One face of the molecule bears a wide depression that is lined by a number of strictly conserved residues, and this feature suggests that this is where substrate binding and catalysis take place.
Conclusions: Through comparisons with a number of structural homologs, we have assigned plausible functions to several of the residues that line the substrate binding pocket. The enzymatic mechanism probably proceeds via a nucleophilic attack by MPT on the GMP donor, most likely GTP, to produce MGD and pyrophosphate. By analogy with related enzymes, this process is likely to require magnesium ions.