Identification of aspartic acid-203 in human thymidine phosphorylase as an important residue for both catalysis and non-competitive inhibition by the small molecule "crystallization chaperone" 5'-O-tritylinosine (KIN59)
Thymidine phosphorylase (TP) is a catabolic enzyme in thymidine metabolism that is frequently upregulated in many solid tumors. Elevated TP levels are associated with tumor angiogenesis, metastasis and poor prognosis. Therefore, the use of TP inhibitors might offer a promising strategy for cancer treatment. The tritylated inosine derivative 5'-O-tritylinosine (previously designated KIN59) is a non-competitive inhibitor of TP which was previously found to be instrumental for the crystallization of human TP. A combination of computational studies including normal mode analysis, automated ligand docking and molecular dynamics simulations were performed to define a plausible binding site for 5'-O-tritylinosine on human TP. A cavity in which 5'-O-tritylinosine could fit was identified in the vicinity of the Gly405-Val419 loop at a distance of about 11A from the substrate-binding site. In the X-ray crystal structure, this pocket is characterized by an intricate hydrogen-bonding network in which Asp203 was found to play an important role to afford the loop stabilization that is required for efficient enzyme catalysis. Site-directed mutagenesis of this amino acid residue afforded a mutant enzyme with a severely compromised catalytic efficiency (V(max)/K(m) of mutant enzyme approximately 50-fold lower than for wild-type TP) and pronounced resistance to the inhibitory effect of 5'-O-tritylinosine. In contrast, the D203A mutant enzyme kept full sensitivity to the competitive inhibitors 6-aminothymine and 6-amino-5-bromouracil, which is in line with the kinetic properties of these inhibitors. Our findings reveal the existence of a previously unrecognized site in TP that can be targeted by small molecules to inhibit the catalytic activity of TP.