Catching catalysis in the act: Using single crystal kinetics to trap methylamine dehydrogenase reaction intermediates

Arwen R. Pearson, Carrie M. Wilmot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Methylamine dehydrogenase (MADH) is produced by a range of gram-negative methylotrophic and autotrophic bacteria, and allows the organisms to utilise methylamine as the sole source of carbon. The enzyme catalyses the oxidation of methylamine to formaldehyde and ammonia, leaving it in a two-electron reduced state. To complete the catalytic cycle, MADH is reoxidised via an electron transfer (ET) chain. The redox center in the enzyme is the organic cofactor tryptophan tryptophylquinone (TTQ) derived from the posttranslational modification of two Trp residues in the protein. This cofactor has spectral features in the visible region, which change during catalytic turnover, defining spectrally distinct reaction intermediates that reflect the electronic state of the TTQ. In the case of the Paracoccus denitrificans enzyme the physiologic ET chain involves the protein redox partner amicyanin (a blue copper protein). A stable binary (MADH/amicyanin) complex can be formed, and its crystal structure has been solved to 2.5 Å resolution by Chen et al. [Biochemistry 21 (1992) 4959]. These crystals were shown to be competent for catalysis and ET by Merli et al. [J. Biol. Chem. 271 (1996) 9177] using single crystal polarised absorption spectroscopy. Through a novel combination of single crystal visible microspectrophotometry, X-ray crystallography and freeze-trapping, we have trapped reaction intermediates of the enzyme in complex with its physiological redox partner amicyanin in the crystalline state. We will present data confirming that catalysis and ET in the binary complex crystals can be tracked by single crystal visible microspectrophotometry. We will also show that the reaction pathway is unperturbed by the presence of cryoprotectant solution, enabling direct freeze-trapping of reaction intermediates within the crystal. We will present new data demonstrating that the binary complex crystals are also capable of exhibiting UV light-dependent oxidase activity, as observed in solution [Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1364 (1998) 297].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-389
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Proteins and Proteomics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 11 2003


  • Amicyanin
  • Catalytic intermediate
  • Electron transfer
  • Methylamine dehydrogenase
  • Quinoprotein
  • Single crystal visible spectroscopy


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