Protein-tyrosine phosphatases: Biological function, structural characteristics, and mechanism of catalysis

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The protein-tyrosine phosphatases (PTPases) superfamily consists of tyrosine-specific phosphatases, dual specificity phosphatases, and the low- molecular-weight phosphatases. They are modulators of signal transduction pathways that regulate numerous cell functions. Malfunction of PTPases have been linked to a number of oncogenic and metabolic disease states, and PTPases are also employed by microbes and viruses for pathogenicity. There is little sequence similarity among the three subfamilies of phosphatases. Yet, three-dimensional structural data show that they share similar conserved structural elements, namely, the phosphate-binding loop encompassing the PTPase signature motif (H/V)C(X)5R(S/T) and an essential general acid/base Asp residue on a surface loop. Biochemical experiments demonstrate that phosphatases in the PTPase superfamily utilize a common mechanism for catalysis going through a covalent thiophosphate intermediate that involves the nucleophilic Cys residue in the PTPase signature motif. The transition states for phosphoenzyme intermediate formation and hydrolysis are dissociative in nature and are similar to those of the solution phosphate monoester reactions. One strategy used by these phosphatases for transition state stabilization is to neutralize the developing negative charge in the leaving group. A conformational change that is restricted to the movement of a flexible loop occurs during the catalytic cycle of the PTPases. However, the relationship between loop dynamics and enzyme catalysis remains to be established. The nature and identity of the rate-limiting step in the PTPase catalyzed reaction requires further investigation and may be dependent on the specific experimental conditions such as temperature, pH, buffer, and substrate used. In-depth kinetic and structural analysis of a representative number of phosphatases from each group of the PTPase superfamily will most likely continue to yield insightful mechanistic information that may be applicable to the rest of the family members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-52
Number of pages52
JournalCritical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 31 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Infectious diseases
  • Kinetic isotope effect
  • Loop dynamics
  • Rate-limiting step
  • Transition state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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