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Bennati, Marina; Lendzian, Friedhelm; Schmittel, Michael; Zipse, Hendrik (2005): Spectroscopic and theoretical approaches for studying radical reactions in class I ribonucleotide reductase. In: Biological Chemistry, Vol. 386, No. 10: pp. 1007-1022


Ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) catalyze the production of deoxyribonucleotides, which are essential for DNA synthesis and repair in all organisms. The three currently known classes of RNRs are postulated to utilize a similar mechanism for ribonucleotide reduction via a transient thiyl radical, but they differ in the way this radical is generated. Class I RNR, found in all eukaryotic organisms and in some eubacteria and viruses, employs a diferric iron center and a stable tyrosyl radical in a second protein subunit, R2, to drive thiyl radical generation near the substrate binding site in subunit R1. From extensive experimental and theoretical research during the last decades, a general mechanistic model for class I RNR has emerged, showing three major mechanistic steps: generation of the tyrosyl radical by the diiron center in subunit R2, radical transfer to generate the proposed thiyl radical near the substrate bound in subunit R1, and finally catalytic reduction of the bound ribonucleotide. Amino acid- or substrate-derived radicals are involved in all three major reactions. This article summarizes the present mechanistic picture of class I RNR and highlights experimental and theoretical approaches that have contributed to our current understanding of this important class of radical enzymes.