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Letters to Nature
Nature 306, 284 - 287 (17 November 1983); doi:10.1038/306284a0

Structure and mechanism of copper, zinc superoxide dismutase

John A. Tainer*, Elizabeth D. Getzoff*, Jane S. Richardson & David C. Richardson

Departments of Biochemistry and Anatomy, Duke Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA
*Present address: Department of molecular Biology, Research Institue of Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.

Copper, zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD) catalyses the very rapid two-step dismutation of the toxic superoxide radical (O 2) to molecular oxygen and hydrogen peroxide through the alternate reduction and oxidation of the active-site copper1. We report here that after refitting and further refinement of the previous 2 Å structure of SOD2, analysis of the new model and its calculated molecular surface shows an extensive surface topography of sequence-conserved residues stabilized by underlying tight packing and H-bonding. There is a single, highly complementary position for O 2 to bind to both the Cu(II) and activity-important Arg 141 with correct geometry; two water molecules form a ghost of the superoxide in this position. The geometry and molecular surface of the active site, together with biochemical data, suggest a specific model for the enzyme mechanism.

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