Dihydrodipicolinate reductase catalyzes the NAD(P)H-dependent reduction of the α,β-unsaturated cyclic imine dihydrodipicolinate to form the cyclic imine tetrahydrodipicolinate. The enzyme is a component of the biosynthetic pathway that leads to diaminopimelate and lysine in bacteria and higher plants. Because these pathways are unique to microorganisms and plants, they may represent attractive targets for new antimicrobial or herbicidal compounds. The three-dimensional structure of the ternary complex of Escherichia coli dihydrodipicolinate reductase with NADH and the inhibitor 2,6-pyridinedicarboxylate has been solved using a combination of molecular replacement and noncrystallographic symmetry averaging procedures and refined against 2.6 Å resolution data to a crystallographic R-factor of 21.4% (R(free) is 29.7%). The native enzyme is a 120 000 molecular weight tetramer of identical subunits. The refined crystallographic model contains a tetramer, three molecules of NADH, three molecules of inhibitor, one phosphate ion, and 186 water molecules per asymmetric unit. Each subunit consists of two domains connected by two flexible hinge regions. While three of the four subunits of the tetramer have a closed conformation, in which the nicotinamide ring of the cofactor bound to the N-terminal domain and the reducible carbon of the substrate bound to the substrate binding domain are about 3.5 Å away, the fourth subunit is unliganded and shows an open conformation, suggesting that the enzyme undergoes a major conformational change upon binding of both substrates. The residues involved in binding of the inhibitor and the residues involved in catalysis have been identified on the basis of the three-dimensional structure. Site-directed mutants have been used to further characterize the role of these residues in binding and catalysis. A chemical mechanism for the enzyme, based on these and previously reported data, is proposed.
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