The unusual oxygen-consuming oxidative deamination reaction catalyzed by the pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP) enzyme DOPA decarboxylase (DDC) was here investigated. Either wild-type or Y332F DDC variant is able to perform such oxidation toward aromatic amines or aromatic l-amino acids, respectively, without the aid of any cofactor related to oxygen chemistry. Oxidative deamination produces, in equivalent amounts, a carbonyl compound and ammonia, accompanied by dioxygen consumption in a 1:2 molar ratio with respect to the products. Kinetic studies either in the pre-steady or in the steady state, together with HPLC analyses of reaction mixtures under varying experimental conditions, revealed that a ketimine accumulates during the linear phase of product formation. This species is reactive since it is converted back to PLP when the substrate is consumed. Rapid-mixing chemical quench studies provide evidence that the ketimine is indeed an intermediate formed during the first catalytic cycle. Moreover, superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide are both generated during the catalytic cycles. On this basis, a mechanism of oxidative deamination consistent with the present data is proposed. Furthermore, the catalytic properties of the T246A DDC mutant together with those previously obtained with H192Q mutant allow us to propose that the Thr246-His192 dyad could act as a general base in promoting the first step of the oxidative deamination of aromatic amines.
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