Serine hydroxymethyltransferase from Escherichia coli was purified to homogeneity. The enzyme was a homodimer of identical subunits with a molecular weight of 95,000. The amino acid sequence of the amino and carboxy-terminal ends and the amino acid composition of cysteine-containing tryptic peptides were in agreement with the primary structure proposed for this enzyme from the structure of the glyA gene (M. Plamann, L. Stauffer, M. Urbanowski, and G. Stauffer, Nucleic Acids Res. 11:2065-2074, 1983). The enzyme contained no disulfide bonds but had one sulfhydryl group on the surface of the protein. Several sulfhydryl reagents reacted with this exposed group and inactivated the enzyme. Spectra of the enzyme in the presence of substrates and substrate analogs showed that the enzyme formed the same complexes and in similar relative concentrations as previously observed with the cytosolic and mitochondrial rabbit liver isoenzymes. Kinetic studies with substrates showed that the affinity and synergistic binding of the amino acid and folate substrates were similar to those obtained with the rabbit liver isoenzymes. The enzyme catalyzed the cleavage of threonine, allothreonine, and 3-phenylserine to glycine and the corresponding aldehyde in the absence of tetrahydrofolate. The enzyme was also inactivated by D-alanine caused by the transamination of the active site pyridoxal phosphate to pyridoxamine phosphate. This substrate specificity was also observed with the rabbit liver isoenzymes. We conclude that the reaction mechanism and the active site structure of E. coli serine hydroxymethyltransferase are very similar to the mechanism and structure of the rabbit liver isoenzymes.
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