The role of inter-subunit interactions in maintaining optimal catalytic activity in triosephosphate isomerase (TIM) has been probed, using the Plasmodium falciparum enzyme as a model. Examination of subunit interface contacts in the crystal structures suggests that residue 75 (Thr, conserved) and residue 13 (Cys, variable) make the largest number of inter-subunit contacts. The mutants Cys13Asp (C13D) and Cys13Glu (C13E) have been constructed and display significant reduction in catalytic activity when compared with wild-type (WT) enzyme (∼ 7.4-fold decrease in k(cat) for the C13D and ∼ 3.3-fold for the C13E mutants). Analytical gel filtration demonstrates that the C13D mutant dissociates at concentrations Cys13Glu > Cys13Asp. Irreversible thermal precipitation temperatures follow the same order as well. Modeling studies establish that the Cys13Asp mutation is likely to cause a significantly greater structural perturbation than Cys13Glu. Analysis of sequence and structural data for TIMs from diverse sources suggests that residues 13 and 82 form a pair of proximal sites, in which a limited number of residue pairs may be accommodated.
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