Phosphorylation of Ser40 in the regulatory domain of tyrosine hydroxylase activates the enzyme by increasing the rate constant for dissociation of inhibitory catecholamines from the active site by 3 orders of magnitude. To probe the changes in the structure of the N-terminal domain upon phosphorylation, individual phenylalanine residues at positions 14, 34, and 74 were replaced with tryptophan in a form of the protein in which the endogenous tryptophans had all been mutated to phenylalanine (W 3F TyrH). The steady-state fluorescence anisotropy of F74W W 3F TyrH was unaffected by phosphorylation, but the anisotropies of both F14W and F34W W 3F TyrH increased significantly upon phosphorylation. The fluorescence of the single tryptophan residue at position 74 was less readily quenched by acrylamide than those at the other two positions; fluorescence increased the rate constant for quenching of the residues at positions 14 and 34 but did not affect that for the residue at position 74. Frequency domain analyses were consistent with phosphorylation having no effect on the amplitude of the rotational motion of the indole ring at position 74, resulting in a small increase in the rotational motion of the residue at position 14 and resulting in a larger increase in the rotational motion of the residue at position 34. These results are consistent with the local environment at position 74 being unaffected by phosphorylation, that at position 34 becoming much more flexible upon phosphorylation, and that at position 14 becoming slightly more flexible upon phosphorylation. The results support a model in which phosphorylation at Ser40 at the N-terminus of the regulatory domain causes a conformational change to a more open conformation in which the N-terminus of the protein no longer inhibits dissociation of a bound catecholamine from the active site.
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