4-oxalocrotonate tautomerase, an enzyme composed of 62 amino acid residues per monomer.
The xylH gene encoding 4-oxalocrotonate tautomerase (4-OT) has been located on a subclone of the Pseudomonas putida mt-2 TOL plasmid pWW0 and inserted into an Escherichia coli expression vector. Several of the genes of the metafission pathway encoded by pWW0 have been cloned in E. coli, but the overexpression of their gene products has met with limited success. By utilizing the E. coli alkaline phosphatase promoter (phoA) coupled with the proper positioning of a ribosome-binding region, we are able to express functional 4-OT in yields of at least 10 mg of pure enzyme/liter of culture. 4-OT has been previously characterized and shown to be an extremely efficient catalyst (Whitman, C. P., Aird, B. A., Gillespie, W. R., and Stolowich, N. J. (1991) J. Am. Chem. Soc. 113, 3154-3162). Kinetic and physical characterization of the E. coli-expressed protein show that it is identical with that of the 4-OT isolated from P. putida. The functional unit is apparently a pentamer of identical subunits, each consisting of only 62 amino acid residues. This is the smallest enzyme subunit reported to date. The amino acid sequence, determined in part from automated Edman degradation and also deduced from the primary sequence of xylH, did not show homology with any of the sequences in the current data bases nor with any of the sequences of enzymes that catalyze similar reactions. We propose that the active site of 4-OT may be established by an overlap of subunits and comprised of amino acid residues belonging to several, if not all, of the subunits.