Published on Nov. 4, 2011 in J Biol Chem volume 286.
PubMed ID: 21908622
Cysteine desulfurases perform pyridoxal phosphate (PLP)-dependent desulfuration of cysteine. The key steps of the enzymatic cycle include substrate binding to PLP, formation of a covalent persulfide intermediate at the active site cysteine, and transfer of sulfur to recipients for use in various metabolic pathways. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the cysteine desulfurase Nfs1p and an accessory protein, Isd11p, are found primarily in mitochondria, and both are essential for cell viability. Although cysteine desulfurases are conserved from bacteria to humans, Isd11p is found only in eukaryotes and not in prokaryotes. Here we show that Isd11p activates Nfs1p. The enzyme without Isd11p was inactive and did not form the [(35)S]persulfide intermediate from the substrate [(35)S]cysteine. Addition of Isd11p to inactive Nfs1p induced formation of the persulfide. Remarkably, in a two-step assay, [(35)S]cysteine could be bound to the inactive Nfs1p in a PLP-dependent manner, and the enzyme could be subsequently induced to form the persulfide by addition of Isd11p. A mutant form of Isd11p with the (15)LYK(17) motif changed to (15)AAA(17) was able to bind but failed to activate Nfs1p, thus separating these two functions of Isd11p. Finally, compared with Nfs1p with or without the bound Isd11p mutant, the Nfs1p.Isd11p complex was more resistant to inactivation by an alkylating agent. On the basis of these novel findings, we propose that interaction of Isd11p with Nfs1p activates the enzyme by inducing a conformational change, thereby promoting formation of the persulfide intermediate at the active site cysteine. Such a conformational change may protect the active site cysteine from alkylating agents.