Studies of enzyme kinetics and aspects of enzyme structure in vivo using NMR and molecular genetics
A quantitative understanding of metabolic control depends on a knowledge of the enzymes involved. The extrapolation of studies in vitro to the intact cell is controversial because the intracellular environment is relatively poorly characterised, particularly with respect to the interactions between weakly-associated enzymes. There is a clear need to study enzymes directly in the cell, yet there are few suitable techniques. Metabolites have been very successfully studied in cells by the non-invasive technique of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). NMR studies of enzymes in the cell have, however, been prevented by difficulties in assigning the resonances from the many proteins within the cell. A method for studying a specific enzyme in the cell has been developed, using Saccharomyces cerevisiae and phosphoglycerate kinase (PGK) as a model system. Using an inducible expression system, PGK was synthesised in the cell without significant synthesis of other proteins. With 5-fluorotryptophan in the growth medium, fluorine-labelled PGK was formed in situ. Fluorine is an excellent label for NMR since it is absent from most cells and has a high receptivity to NMR detection. 19 F NMR was used to study PGK in the intact cell. Comparisons with measurements in vitro showed that PGK was exposed to only a small fraction of the total intracellular [ADP], implying some form of compartmentalisation. The NMR relaxation properties observed in vivo and in vitro were compared with theoretical predictions. This showed that PGK was not part of a complex in the cell and that the viscosity of the cytoplasm, relative to water, was c. 4 at 30 °C. Fluorine-labelled pyruvate kinase and hexokinase have also been prepared; the spectra of these proteins in vitro are responsive to their ligands, and further work will study these proteins in vivo. NMR techniques were also applied to study the kinetics of PGK in the cell. PGK and GAPDH catalyse an ATP↔Pi exchange which is near-equilibrium in wild-type cells. 31P magnetisation transfer experiments in genetically manipulated cells showed that the reaction becomes unidirectional if the PGK activity is reduced by 95 %. Net flux is reduced by less than 30 %. In low-PGK cells, the ATP↔Pi exchange from oxidative phosphorylation can be isolated from that of glycolysis, facilitating direct measurements of the P:O ratio. In the cells studied, the P:O ratio was 2 to 3.