Department of Chemistry


Date of this Version



J. Biol. Chem. (2017) 292(34) 13986–14002


© 2017 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.

DOI 10.1074/jbc.M117.777904


There is currently great interest in human serine racemase, the enzyme responsible for producing the NMDA co-agonist D-serine. Reported correlation of D-serine levels with disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and ischemic brain damage (elevated D-serine) and schizophrenia (reduced D-serine) has further piqued this interest. Reported here is a structure/activity relationship study of position Ser84, the putative re-face base. In the most extreme case of functional reprogramming, the S84D mutant displays a dramatic reversal of β-elimination substrate specificity in favor of L-serine over the normally preferred L-serine-O-sulfate (~1200-fold change in kcat/Km ratios) and L (L-THA; ~5000-fold change in kcat/Km ratios) alternative substrates. On the other hand, the S84T (which performs L-Ser racemization activity), S84A (good kcat but high Km for L-THA elimination), and S84N mutants (nearly WT efficiency for L-Ser elimination) displayed intermediate activity, all showing a preference for the anionic substrates, but generally attenuated compared with the native enzyme. Inhibition studies with L-erythro-β-hydroxyaspartate follow this trend, with both WT serine racemase and the S84N mutant being competitively inhibited, with Ki = 31 ± 1.5 μM and 1.5 ± 0.1mM, respectively, and the S84D being inert to inhibition. Computational modeling pointed to a key role for residue Arg-135 in binding and properly positioning the L-THA and L-serine-O-sulfate substrates and the L-erythro-β-hydroxyaspartate inhibitor. Examination of available sequence data suggests that Arg-135 may have originated for L-THA-like-β-elimination function in earlier evolutionary variants, and examination of available structural data suggests that a Ser84-H2O-Lys114 hydrogen-bonding network in human serine racemase lowers the pKa of the Ser84 re-face base.