Year of Publication


Document Type





Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry

First Advisor

David W. Rodgers


Thimet oligopeptidase (TOP, EC and neurolysin (EC are zincdependent metallopeptidases that metabolize small bioactive peptides. The two enzymes share60 % sequence identity and their crystal structures demonstrate that they adopt nearly identicalfolds. They generally cleave at the same sites, but they recognize different positions on somepeptides, including neurotensin, a 13-residue peptide involved in modulation of dopaminergiccircuits, pain perception, and thermoregulation.On the basis of crystal structures and previous mapping studies, four residues(E469/R470, M490/R491, H495/N496, and R498/T499, TOP residues listed first) in thesubstrate-binding channel appear positioned to account for differences in specificity. TOPmutated to the neurolysin residues at all four position cleaves neurotensin at the neurolysin siteand neurolysin mutated to the TOP residues at all four sites cleaves at the TOP position. Using aseries of constructs mutated at only three sites, it was determined that only two of the mutations,E469/R470 and R498/T499, are required to swap the specificity of TOP and neurolysin. Theseresults were confirmed by testing the two mutation constructs, and either single mutant of TOPshown an intermediate specificity, cleaving at both sites.Crystal structures of the two mutation constructs of TOP and neurolysin unligandedforms, the mutations do not perturb local structure, but side chain conformations at theR498/T499 position differ from those of the mimicked enzyme. A model for differentialrecognition of neurotensin based on differences in surface charge distribution in the substratebinding sites is proposed. The model is supported by finding that reducing the positive charge onthe peptide results in cleavage at both hydrolysis sites.This dissertation also includes a description of the production and crystallization trials ofhuman neprilysin (E.C., which will be used as another model system for studyingspecificity in metallopeptidases. In addition, the production and crystallization, and crystalcharacterization of human choline acetyltransferase (EC is described.