New Insights into the Determinants of Specificity in Human Type I Arginase: Generation of a Mutant That Is Only Active with Agmatine as Substrate

María Soledad Orellana, Gonzalo A. Jaña, Maximiliano Figueroa, José Martínez-Oyanedel, Fabiola E. Medina, Estefanía Tarifeño-Saldivia, Marcell Gatica, María Ángeles García-Robles, Nelson Carvajal, Elena Uribe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Arginase catalyzes the hydrolysis of L-arginine into L-ornithine and urea. This enzyme has several analogies with agmatinase, which catalyzes the hydrolysis of agmatine into putrescine and urea. However, this contrasts with the highlighted specificity that each one presents for their respective substrate. A comparison of available crystal structures for arginases reveals an important difference in the extension of two loops located in the entrance of the active site. The first, denominated loop A (I129-L140) contains the residues that interact with the alpha carboxyl group or arginine of arginase, and the loop B (D181-P184) contains the residues that interact with the alpha amino group of arginine. In this work, to determine the importance of these loops in the specificity of arginase, single, double, and triple arginase mutants in these loops were constructed, as well as chimeras between type I human arginase and E. coli agmatinase. In previous studies, the substitution of N130D in arginase (in loop A) generated a species capable of hydrolyzing arginine and agmatine. Now, the specificity of arginase is completely altered, generating a chimeric species that is only active with agmatine as a substrate, by substituting I129T, N130Y, and T131A together with the elimination of residues P132, L133, and T134. In addition, Quantum Mechanic/Molecular Mechanic (QM/MM) calculations were carried out to study the accommodation of the substrates in in the active site of this chimera. With these results it is concluded that this loop is decisive to discriminate the type of substrate susceptible to be hydrolyzed by arginase. Evidence was also obtained to define the loop B as a structural determinant for substrate affinity. Concretely, the double mutation D181T and V182E generate an enzyme with an essentially unaltered kcat value, but with a significantly increased Km value for arginine and a significant decrease in affinity for its product ornithine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6438
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • agmatine
  • arginase
  • arginine
  • determinants of specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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