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Molecular Simulation to Investigate the Cofactor Specificity for Pichia stipitis Xylose Reductase

[ Vol. 9 , Issue. 7 ]


Xiao-Le Xia, Shan Cong, Xiao-Rong Weng, Jin-Hua Chen, Jing-Fang Wang and Kuo-Chen Chou   Pages 985 - 992 ( 8 )


Xylose is one of the most abundant carbohydrates in nature, and widely used to produce bioethanol via fermentation in industry. Xylulose can produce two key enzymes: xylose reductase and xylitol dehydrogenase. Owing to the disparate cofactor specificities of xylose reductase and xylitol dehydrogenase, intracellular redox imbalance is detected during the xylose fermentation, resulting in low ethanol yields. To overcome this barrier, a common strategy is applied to artificially modify the cofactor specificity of xylose reductase. In this study, we utilized molecular simulation approaches to construct a 3D (three-dimensional) structural model for the NADP-dependent Pichia stipitis xylose reductase (PsXR). Based on the 3D model, the favourable binding modes for both cofactors NAD and NADP were obtained using the flexible docking procedure and molecular dynamics simulation. Structural analysis of the favourable binding modes showed that the cofactor binding site of PsXR was composed of 3 major components: a hydrophilic pocket, a hydrophobic pocket as well as a linker channel between the aforementioned two pockets. The hydrophilic pocket could recognize the nicotinamide moiety of the cofactors by hydrogen bonding networks, while the hydrophobic pocket functioned to position the adenine moiety of the cofactors by hydrophobic and Π-Π stacking interactions. The linker channel contained some key residues for ligand-binding; their mutation could have impact to the specificity of PsXR. Finally, it was found that any of the two single mutations, K21A and K270N, might reverse the cofactor specificity of PsXR from major NADP- to NADdependent, which was further confirmed by the additional experiments. Our findings may provide useful insights into the cofactor specificity of PsXR, stimulating new strategies for better designing xylose reductase and improving ethanol production in industry.


Xylose reductase, NADP-dependence, Molecular modelling, Mutagenesis, Bioethanol production.


800 Dongchuan Road, Shanghai Center for Systems Biomedicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200240, China.

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