Development of an experimental activity for teaching cooperativity and allosterism

B. Manta, M.L. Calcagno, B. Alvarez


Although  enzyme  control  and  regulation  is  an  important  topic  in  most  Biochemistry  and  Enzymology  courses, laboratory  activities  that  allow  an  experimental  approach  to  cooperativity  and  allosterism  are  difficult  to  implement. The objective of this work was to develop a simple and inexpensive experimental activity to teach this topic in basic courses.  We  decided  to  use  the  enzyme  glucosamine-6-phosphate  deaminase  (GNPD,  E.C.  from Escherichia coli,  that  is  both  kinetically  and  structurally  well-known.  GNPD  is  an  allosteric  enzyme,  activated  by  N-acetylglucosamine 6-phosphate, that catalyzes the conversion of glucosamine 6-phosphate into fructose 6-phosphate and  ammonia.  The  enzyme  is  a  typical  allosteric  K-system  and  can  be  well  described  by  the  Monod-Wyman-Changeux  (MWC)  model.  GNPD  was  partially  purified  through  anionic-exchange  chromatography  from  a  mutant E.coli strain  which  expresses  constitutively  high  levels  of the  enzyme.  In  order  to  measure  activity  we  used  an end point  method  which  consists  in  stopping  the  reaction  at  a  certain  time  point  with  HCl  10  N,  and  quantifying  the fructose-6-phosphate  formed  with  resorcinol  (Selliwanoff  reaction)  through  the  formation  of  a  red  color  that  is measured  spectrophotometrically.  We  developed  a  protocol  that  consisted  in  a  4-hour  experiment  in  which  the students  measured  the  activity  of  the  GNPD  with  increasing  concentrations  of  the  substrate,  in  the  presence  or absence  of  allosteric  modulator.  The  students  obtained  a  good  quality  data  set  that  they  analyzed  based  on  the equations  of  Hill,  MWC  and  Acerenza-Mirzaji  (Biochim  Biophys  Acta,  1997,  1339:155-66).  This  protocol  was  used during the 2005 Enzymology course in Montevideo with very satisfactory results.


allosterism, enzyme control , Escherichia coli.

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