Emerging concepts in pseudoenzyme classification, evolution, and signaling

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Science Signaling  13 Aug 2019:
Vol. 12, Issue 594, eaat9797
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aat9797


The 21st century is witnessing an explosive surge in our understanding of pseudoenzyme-driven regulatory mechanisms in biology. Pseudoenzymes are proteins that have sequence homology with enzyme families but that are proven or predicted to lack enzyme activity due to mutations in otherwise conserved catalytic amino acids. The best-studied pseudoenzymes are pseudokinases, although examples from other families are emerging at a rapid rate as experimental approaches catch up with an avalanche of freely available informatics data. Kingdom-wide analysis in prokaryotes, archaea and eukaryotes reveals that between 5 and 10% of proteins that make up enzyme families are pseudoenzymes, with notable expansions and contractions seemingly associated with specific signaling niches. Pseudoenzymes can allosterically activate canonical enzymes, act as scaffolds to control assembly of signaling complexes and their localization, serve as molecular switches, or regulate signaling networks through substrate or enzyme sequestration. Molecular analysis of pseudoenzymes is rapidly advancing knowledge of how they perform noncatalytic functions and is enabling the discovery of unexpected, and previously unappreciated, functions of their intensively studied enzyme counterparts. Notably, upon further examination, some pseudoenzymes have previously unknown enzymatic activities that could not have been predicted a priori. Pseudoenzymes can be targeted and manipulated by small molecules and therefore represent new therapeutic targets (or anti-targets, where intervention should be avoided) in various diseases. In this review, which brings together broad bioinformatics and cell signaling approaches in the field, we highlight a selection of findings relevant to a contemporary understanding of pseudoenzyme-based biology.

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