Published on Sept. 7, 2001 in J Biol Chem volume 276.

PubMed ID: 11443125


The enzyme ThiI is common to the biosynthetic pathways leading to both thiamin and 4-thiouridine in tRNA. We earlier noted the presence of a motif shared with sulfurtransferases, and we reported that the cysteine residue (Cys-456 of Escherichia coli ThiI) found in this motif is essential for activity (Palenchar, P. M., Buck, C. J., Cheng, H., Larson, T. J., and Mueller, E. G. (2000) J. Biol. Chem. 275, 8283-8286). In light of that finding and the report of the involvement of the protein IscS in the reaction (Kambampati, R., and Lauhon, C. T. (1999) Biochemistry 38, 16561-16568), we proposed two mechanisms for the sulfur transfer mediated by ThiI, and both suggested possible involvement of the thiol group of another cysteine residue in ThiI. We have now substituted each of the cysteine residues with alanine and characterized the effect on activity in vivo and in vitro. Cys-108 and Cys-202 were converted to alanine with no significant effect on ThiI activity, and C207A ThiI was only mildly impaired. Substitution of Cys-344, the only cysteine residue conserved among all sequenced ThiI, resulted in the loss of function in vivo and a 2700-fold reduction in activity measured in vitro. We also examined the possibility that ThiI contains an iron-sulfur cluster or disulfide bonds in the resting state, and we found no evidence to support the presence of either species. We propose that Cys-344 forms a disulfide bond with Cys-456 during turnover, and we present evidence that a disulfide bond can form between these two residues in native ThiI and that disulfide bonds do form in ThiI during turnover. We also discuss the relevance of these findings to the biosynthesis of thiamin and iron-sulfur clusters.

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