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A synthetic gene encoding human As(III) S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) methyltransferase (hAS3MT) was expressed, and the purified enzyme was characterized. The synthetic enzyme is considerably more active than a cDNA-expressed enzyme using endogenous reductants thioredoxin (Trx), thioredoxin reductase (TR), NADPH, and reduced glutathione (GSH). Each of the seven cysteines (the four conserved residues, Cys32, Cys61, Cys156, and Cys206, and nonconserved, Cys72, Cys85, and Cys250) was individually changed to serine. The nonconserved cysteine derivates were still active. None of the individual C32S, C61S, C156S, and C206S derivates were able to methylate As(III). However, the C32S and C61S enzymes retained the ability to methylate MAs(III). These observations suggest that Cys156 and Cys206 play a different role in catalysis than that of Cys32 and Cys61. A homology model built on the structure of a thermophilic orthologue indicates that Cys156 and Cys206 form the As(III) binding site, whereas Cys32 and Cys61 form a disulfide bond. Two observations shed light on the pathway of methylation. First, binding assays using the fluorescence of a single-tryptophan derivative indicate that As(GS)3 binds to the enzyme much faster than inorganic As(III). Second, the major product of the first round of methylation is MAs(III), not MAs(V), and remains enzyme-bound until it is methylated a second time. We propose a new pathway for hAS3MT catalysis that reconciles the hypothesis of Challenger ((1947) Sci. Prog., 35, 396?416) with the pathway proposed by Hayakawa et al. ((2005) Arch. Toxicol., 79, 183?191). The products are the more toxic and more carcinogenic trivalent methylarsenicals, but arsenic undergoes oxidation and reduction as enzyme-bound intermediates.

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Chemical Research in Toxicology






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