The Journal of biological chemistry

Active glutaminase C self-assembles into a supratetrameric oligomer that can be disrupted by an allosteric inhibitor.

PMID 23935106


The phosphate-dependent transition between enzymatically inert dimers into catalytically capable tetramers has long been the accepted mechanism for the glutaminase activation. Here, we demonstrate that activated glutaminase C (GAC) self-assembles into a helical, fiber-like double-stranded oligomer and propose a molecular model consisting of seven tetramer copies per turn per strand interacting via the N-terminal domains. The loop (321)LRFNKL(326) is projected as the major regulating element for self-assembly and enzyme activation. Furthermore, the previously identified in vivo lysine acetylation (Lys(311) in humans, Lys(316) in mouse) is here proposed as an important down-regulator of superoligomer assembly and protein activation. Bis-2-(5-phenylacetamido-1,3,4-thiadiazol-2-yl)ethyl sulfide, a known glutaminase inhibitor, completely disrupted the higher order oligomer, explaining its allosteric mechanism of inhibition via tetramer stabilization. A direct correlation between the tendency to self-assemble and the activity levels of the three mammalian glutaminase isozymes was established, with GAC being the most active enzyme while forming the longest structures. Lastly, the ectopic expression of a fiber-prone superactive GAC mutant in MDA-MB 231 cancer cells provided considerable proliferative advantages to transformed cells. These findings yield unique implications for the development of GAC-oriented therapeutics targeting tumor metabolism.