Liver phenylalanine hydroxylase is allosterically activated by phenylalanine. The structural changes that accompany activation have not been identified, but recent studies of the effects of phenylalanine on the isolated regulatory domain of the enzyme support a model in which phenylalanine binding promotes regulatory domain dimerization. Such a model predicts that compounds that stabilize the regulatory domain dimer will also activate the enzyme. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and analytical ultracentrifugation were used to determine the ability of different amino acids and phenylalanine analogues to stabilize the regulatory domain dimer. The abilities of these compounds to activate the enzyme were analyzed by measuring their effects on the fluorescence change that accompanies activation and on the activity directly. At concentrations of 10-50 mM, d-phenylalanine, l-methionine, l-norleucine, and (S)-2-amino-3-phenyl-1-propanol were able to activate the enzyme to the same extent as 1 mM l-phenylalanine. Lower levels of activation were seen with l-4-aminophenylalanine, l-leucine, l-isoleucine, and 3-phenylpropionate. The ability of these compounds to stabilize the regulatory domain dimer agreed with their ability to activate the enzyme. These results support a model in which allosteric activation of phenylalanine hydroxylase is linked to dimerization of regulatory domains.
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