Metal uptake by apomanganese superoxide dismutase in vitro is a complex process exhibiting multiphase "gated" reaction kinetics and a striking sigmoidal temperature profile that has led to a model of conformationally gated metal binding, requiring conversion between "closed" and "open" forms. This work systematically explores the structural determinants of metal binding in both wild-type (WT) apoprotein and mutational variants as a test of mechanistic models. The pH dependence of metalation under physiological conditions (37°C) shows it is linked to ionization of a single proton with a pKa of 7.7. Size exclusion chromatography demonstrates that the apoprotein is dimeric even when it is fully converted to the open form. The role of molecular motions in metal binding has been probed by using disulfide engineering to introduce covalent constraints into the protein. While restricting motion at domain interfaces has no effect, constraining the subunit interface significantly perturbs metal uptake but does not prevent the process. Mutagenesis of residues in the active site environment results in a dramatic shift in the transition temperature by as much as 20°C or a loss of pH sensitivity. On the basis of these results, a mechanism for metal uptake by manganese superoxide dismutase involving reorientation of active site residues to form a metal entry channel is proposed.
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