Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Giovanni Gadda - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Dabney W. Dixon - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Yujun G. Zheng - Committee Member


Choline oxidase catalyzes the two-step oxidation of choline to glycine betaine, one of limited osmoprotectants, with the formation of betaine aldehyde as an enzyme bound intermediate. Glycine betaine accumulates in the cytoplasm of plants and bacteria as a defensive mechanism to withstand hyperosmolarity and elevated temperatures. This makes the genetic engineering of relevant plants which lack the property of salt accumulation of economic interest, and the biosynthetic pathway of the osmolyte a potential drug target in microbial infections. The reaction of alcohol oxidation occurs via a hydride ion tunneling transfer from the substrate donor to a flavin acceptor within a highly preorganized active site environment in which choline and FAD are in a rigidly close proximity. In this dissertation, factors contributing to the enzyme-substrate preorganization which is required for the hydride ion tunneling reaction mechanism in choline oxidase have been investigated. Crystallographic studies of wild-type choline oxidase revealed a covalent linkage between C8M atom of the FAD isoalloxazine ring and the N(3) atom of the side chain of a histidine at position 99, and a solvent excluded cavity in the substrate binding domain containing glutamic acid at position 312 as the only negatively charged amino acid residue in the active site of the enzyme. The role of the histidine residue and the contribution of the 8á-N(3)-histidyl covalent linkage of the flavin cofactor to the reaction of alcohol oxidation was investigated in a variant form of choline oxidase in which the histidine residue was replaced with an asparagine. The role of the glutamate residue and the importance of the spatial location of the negative charge at position 312 was investigated in variant forms of choline oxidase in which the negatively charged residue was replaced with glutamine and aspartate. Mechanistic data obtained for the variant enzymes and their comparison to previous data obtained for wild-type choline oxidase are consistent with the residues at positions 99 and 312 being important for relative positioning of the hydride ion donor and acceptor. The residues are important for the enzyme-substrate preorganization that is required for the hydride tunneling reaction in choline oxidase.

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