Characterization of three essential residues in the conserved ATP-binding region of Epstein-Barr virus thymidine kinase.
ABSTRACT The thymidine kinase encoded by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV TK) is an important target for antiviral therapy and the treatment of EBV-associated malignancies. Through computer-assisted alignment with other human herpesviral TK proteins, EBV TK was shown to contain a conserved ATP-binding motif as for the other TK enzymes. To investigate functional roles of three highly conserved residues (G294, K297, T298) within this region, site-directed mutagenesis was employed to generate various mutants. The TK enzyme activity and ATP-binding ability of these mutant TK enzymes were determined and compared with EBV wild-type TK (wtTK). Mutant G294V lost its ATP-binding ability and was inactive in enzyme activity assay. As the enzyme activity of G294A was reduced to 20% of that of wtTK, the K(m) for ATP binding of G294A was 48.7 microM as compared with 30.0 microM of EBV wtTK. These results suggested that G294 participates in ATP binding and contributes to maintenance of structure. EBV TK mutants K297E, K297Q, and K297R lost their ATP-binding ability and enzyme activity. However, K297R was shown to have a preference for usage of GTP (K(m): 43.0 microM) instead of ATP (K(m): 87.6 microM) as the phosphate donor. This implies that, in addition to nucleotide binding, K297 was involved in the selection of phosphate donor. While EBV TK mutant T298S retained approximately 80% of wtTK enzyme activity, T298A lost its enzyme activity, suggesting that a hydroxyl group at this position is important for the enzyme activity. Interestingly, T298A retained its ATP-binding ability, suggesting a role of T298 in the catalytic process but not in the coordination of ATP. This study demonstrated that amino acid residues G294, K297, and T298 in the ATP-binding motif of EBV TK enzyme are essential for the enzymatic activity but are involved in different aspects of its action.