Biochemical Characterizations of Human TMPK Mutations Identified in Patients with Severe Microcephaly: Single Amino Acid Substitutions Impair Dimerization and Abolish Their Catalytic Activity

Junmei Hu Frisk, Jo M Vanoevelen, Jorgen Bierau, Gunnar Pejler, Staffan Eriksson, Liya Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Deoxythymidylate kinase (TMPK) is a key enzyme in the synthesis of deoxythymidine triphosphate (dTTP). Four TMPK variants (P81L, A99T, D128N, and a frameshift) have been identified in human patients who suffered from severe neurodegenerative diseases. However, the impact of these mutations on TMPK function has not been clarified. Here we show that in fibroblasts derived from a patient, the P81L and D128N mutations led to a complete loss of TMPK activity in mitochondria and extremely low and unstable TMPK activity in cytosol. Despite the lack of TMPK activity, the patient-derived fibroblasts apparently grew normal. To investigate the impact of the mutations on the enzyme function, the mutant TMPKs were expressed, purified, and characterized. The wild-type TMPK mainly exists as a dimer with high substrate binding affinity, that is, low K M value and high catalytic efficiency, that is, k cat/K M. In contrast, all mutants were present as monomers with dramatically reduced substrate binding affinity and catalytic efficiencies. Based on the human TMPK structure, none of the mutated amino acids interacted directly with the substrates. By structural analysis, we could explain why the respective amino acid substitutions could drastically alter the enzyme structure and catalytic function. In conclusion, TMPK mutations identified in patients represent loss of function mutations but surprisingly the proliferation rate of the patient-derived fibroblasts was normal, suggesting the existence of an alternative and hitherto unknown compensatory TMPK-like enzyme for dTTP synthesis. Further studies of the TMPK enzymes will help to elucidate the role of TMPK in neuropathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33943-33952
Number of pages10
JournalAcs omega
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2021



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