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The combination of protein crystallography and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) provides a powerful method to investigate changes in protein conformation. These complementary structural techniques were used to probe the solution structure of the apo and the ligand-bound forms of the Arabidopsis thaliana acyl acid-amido synthetase GH3.12. This enzyme is part of the extensive GH3 family and plays a critical role in the regulation of plant hormones through the formation of amino-acid-conjugated hormone products via an ATP-dependent reaction mechanism. The enzyme adopts two distinct C-terminal domain orientations with `open' and `closed' active sites. Previous studies suggested that ATP only binds in the open orientation. Here, the X-ray crystal structure of GH3.12 is presented in the closed conformation in complex with the nonhydrolysable ATP analogue AMPCPP and the substrate salicylate. Using on-line HPLC purification combined with SAXS measurements, the most likely apo and ATP-bound protein conformations in solution were determined. These studies demonstrate that the C-terminal domain is flexible in the apo form and favours the closed conformation upon ATP binding. In addition, these data illustrate the efficacy of on-line HPLC purification integrated into the SAXS sample-handling environment to reliably monitor small changes in protein conformation through the collection of aggregate-free and highly redundant data.

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PDB reference: GH3.12–AMPCPP–salicylate complex, 4l39

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