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Human carbonyl reductase is a member of the short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase (SDR) protein superfamily and is known to play an important role in the detoxification of xenobiotics bearing a carbonyl group. The two monomeric NADPH-dependent human isoforms of cytosolic carbonyl reductase CBR1 and CBR3 show a sequence similarity of 85% on the amino acid level, which is definitely high if compared to the low similarities usually observed among other members of the SDR superfamily (15-30%). Despite the sequence similarity and the similar features found in the available crystal structures of the two enzymes, CBR3 shows only low or no activity towards substrates that are metabolised by CBR1. This surprising substrate specificity is still not fully understood. In the present study, we introduced several point mutations and changed sequences of up to 17 amino acids of CBR3 to the corresponding amino acids of CBR1, to gather insight into the catalytic mechanism of both enzymes. Proteins were expressed in Escherichia coli and purified by Ni-affinity chromatography. Their catalytic properties were then compared using isatin and 9,10-phenanthrenequinone as model substrates. Towards isatin, wild-type CBR3 showed a catalytic efficiency of 0.018 microM(-1)min(-1), whereas wild-type CBR1 showed a catalytic efficiency of 13.5 microM(-1)min(-1). In particular, when nine residues (236-244) in the vicinity of the catalytic center and a proline (P230) in CBR3 were mutated to the corresponding residues of CBR1 a much higher k(cat)/K(m) value (5.7 microM(-1)min(-1)) towards isatin was observed. To gain further insight into the protein-ligand binding process, docking simulations were perfomed on this mutant and on both wild-type enzymes (CBR1 and CBR3). The theoretical model of the mutant was ad hoc built by means of standard comparative modelling.

Original publication




Journal article


Chem Biol Interact

Publication Date





234 - 241


Alcohol Oxidoreductases, Amino Acid Sequence, Base Sequence, Binding Sites, Biocatalysis, DNA Primers, DNA, Complementary, Humans, Kinetics, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutagenesis, Site-Directed, Sequence Homology, Amino Acid, Substrate Specificity