Arginine-259 of UGT2B7 Confers UDP-Sugar Selectivity

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Enzymes of the human UDP-glycosyltransferase (UGT) superfamily typically catalyze the covalent addition of the sugar moiety from a UDP-sugar cofactor to relatively low-molecular weight lipophilic compounds. Although UDP-glucuronic acid (UDP-GlcUA) is most commonly employed as the cofactor by UGT1 and UGT2 family enzymes, UGT2B7 and several other enzymes can use both UDP-GlcUA and UDP-glucose (UDP-Glc), leading to the formation of glucuronide and glucoside conjugates. An investigation of UGT2B7-catalyzed morphine glycosidation indicated that glucuronidation is the principal route of metabolism because the binding affinity of UDP-GlcUA is higher than that of UDP-Glc. Currently, it is unclear which residues in the UGT2B7 cofactor binding domain are responsible for the preferential binding of UDP-GlcUA. Here, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were performed together with site-directed mutagenesis and enzyme kinetic studies to identify residues within the UGT2B7 binding site responsible for the selective cofactor binding. MD simulations demonstrated that Arg259, which is located within the N-terminal domain, specifically interacts with UDP-GlcUA, whereby the side chain of Arg259 H-bonds and forms a salt bridge with the carboxylate group of glucuronic acid. Consistent with the MD simulations, substitution of Arg259 with Leu resulted in the loss of morphine, 4-methylumbelliferone, and zidovudine glucuronidation activity, but morphine glucosidation was preserved. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Despite the importance of uridine diphosphate glycosyltransferase (UGT) enzymes in drug and chemical metabolism, cofactor binding interactions are incompletely understood, as is the molecular basis for preferential glucuronidation by UGT1 and UGT2 family enzymes. The study demonstrated that long timescale molecular dynamics (MD) simulations with a UGT2B7 homology model can be used to identify critical binding interactions of a UGT protein with UDP-sugar cofactors. Further, the data provide a basis for the application of MD simulations to the elucidation of UGT-aglycone interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-718
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Pharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Arginine-259
  • UGT2B7
  • UDP-glycosyltransferase (UGT)
  • uridine diphosphate glycosyltransferase (UGT)


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