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Structural and mechanistic studies of α-galactosidase A and pharmacological chaperones

Abigail Ida Guce, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Human α-galactosidase (α-GAL; EC is a lysosomal enzyme that hydrolyzes of terminal alpha-linked galactosyl residue of glycosphingolipids. Deficiencies in α-GAL leads to Fabry disease, which is characterized by the build-up of globotriaosylceramide and other neutral substrates in cells, ultimately leading to a multi-systemic organ failure in patients. Hundreds of distinct mutations have been found in the α-GAL gene of Fabry disease patients. One current treatment for Fabry disease is Enzyme Replacement Therapy (ERT), which restores the missing α-GAL function. An alternative treatment, called Pharmacological Chaperone Therapy (PCT), utilizes a small molecule substrate analogue, 1-deoxygalactonojirimycin (DGJ). In order to better understand molecular basis of Fabry disease, this work addresses structural and mechanistic studies of the α-GAL glycoprotein. First, we have determined crystal structures of each stage in the catalytic mechanism of the α-GAL enzymatic reaction. These studies reveal a novel strained conformation of the sugar when it is covalently bound to the enzyme. Second, we examine the molecular mechanism of chaperoning by pharmacological chaperones. A combination of biochemical and biophysical approaches reveals that the high potency of the DGJ chaperone is due to an interaction with α-GAL residue D170. Third, we have investigated mutant α-GAL proteins for their response to pharmacological chaperones, leading to a set of structure-based rules for predicting the effect of pharmacological chaperone on every Fabry disease patient. Fourth, we use rational design approaches to interconvert the specificity of α-GAL into that of a related enzyme, α-N-acetylgalactosaminidase (α-NAGAL). Structural and enzymatic experiments show that the engineered enzyme contains new substrate specificity, as predicted by the design. The structural and mechanistic details we present in this thesis provide better understanding of the catalysis of the human α-galactosidase enzyme as well as define the molecular basis for pharmacological chaperone therapy in Fabry patients. Since α-GAL is one of the best studied lysosomal storage disease, it might be used as a model to better understand other lysosomal storage diseases and as well as other diseases related to misfolded proteins, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Subject Area

Biochemistry|Pharmacy sciences

Recommended Citation

Guce, Abigail Ida, "Structural and mechanistic studies of α-galactosidase A and pharmacological chaperones" (2010). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3405200.