To identify the amino acids involved in the specific regulatory properties of glucokinase, and particularly its low affinity for glucose, mutants of the human islet enzyme have been prepared, in which glucokinase-specific residues have been replaced. Two mutations increased the affinity for glucose by twofold (K296M) and sixfold (Y214A), the latter also decreasing the Hill coefficient from 1.75 to 1.2 with minimal change in the affinity for ATP. Combining these two mutations with N166R resulted in a 50-fold decrease in the half-saturating substrate concentration (S0.5) value, which became then comparable to the Km of hexokinase II. The location of N166, Y214, and K296 in the three-dimensional structure of glucokinase suggests that these mutations act by favoring closure of the catalytic cleft. As a rule, mutations changed the affinity for glucose and for the competitive inhibitor mannoheptulose (MH) in parallel, whereas they barely affected the affinity for N-acetylglucosamine (NAG). These and other results suggest that NAG and MH bind to the same site but to different conformations of glucokinase. A small reduction in the affinity for the regulatory protein was observed with mutations of residues on the smaller domain and in the hinge region, confirming the bipartite nature of the binding site for the regulatory protein. The K296M mutant was found to have a threefold decreased affinity for palmitoyl CoA; this effect was additive to that previously observed for the E279Q mutant, indicating that the binding site for long-chain acyl CoAs is located on the upper face of the larger domain.

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