The catalytic domains of the pterin-dependent enzymes phenylalanine hydroxylase and tyrosine hydroxylase are homologous, yet differ in their substrate specificities. To probe the structural basis for the differences in specificity, seven residues in the active site of phenylalanine hydroxylase whose side chains are dissimilar in the two enzymes were mutated to the corresponding residues in tyrosine hydroxylase. Analysis of the effects of the mutations on the isolated catalytic domain of phenylalanine hydroxylase identified three residues that contribute to the ability to hydroxylate tyrosine, His264, Tyr277, and Val379. These mutations were incorporated into full-length phenylalanine hydroxylase and the complementary mutations into tyrosine hydroxylase. The steady-state kinetic parameters of the mutated enzymes showed that the identity of the residue in tyrosine hydroxylase at the position corresponding to position 379 of phenylalanine hydroxylase is critical for dihydroxyphenylalanine formation. The relative specificity of tyrosine hydroxylase for phenylalanine versus tyrosine, as measured by the (V/K(phe))/(V/K(tyr)) value, increased by 80000-fold in the D425V enzyme. However, mutation of the corresponding valine 379 of phenylalanine hydroxylase to aspartate was not sufficient to allow phenylalanine hydroxylase to form dihydroxyphenylalanine at rates comparable to that of tyrosine hydroxylase. The double mutant V379D/H264Q PheH was the most active at tyrosine hydroxylation, showing a 3000-fold decrease in the (V/K(phe))/(V/K(tyr)) value.
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