▪ Abstract 

The vitamin K–dependent (VKD) carboxylase uses the oxygenation of vitamin K to convert glutamyl residues (Glus) to carboxylated Glus (Glas) in VKD proteins, rendering them active in a broad range of physiologies that include hemostasis, apoptosis, bone development, arterial calcification, signal transduction, and growth control. The carboxylase has a high-affinity site that selectively binds VKD proteins, usually through their propeptide, and also has a second low-affinity site of VKD protein interaction. Propeptide binding increases carboxylase affinity for the Glu substrate, and the coordinated binding of the VKD propeptide and Glu substrate increases carboxylase affinity for vitamin K and activity, possibly through a mechanism of substrate-assisted catalysis. Tethering of VKD proteins to the carboxylase allows clusters of Glus to be modified to Glas by a processive mechanism that becomes disrupted during warfarin therapy. Warfarin inhibits a vitamin K oxidoreductase that generates the reduced vitamin K cofactor required for continuous carboxylation and causes decreased carboxylase catalysis and increased dissociation of partially carboxylated, inactive VKD proteins. The availability of reduced vitamin K may also control carboxylation in r-VKD protein-expressing cells, where the amounts of reduced vitamin K are sufficient for full carboxylation of low, but not high, expression levels of VKD proteins, and where carboxylation is not improved by overexpression of r-carboxylase. This review discusses these recent advances in understanding the mechanism of carboxylation. Also covered is the identification of functional carboxylase residues, a brief description of the role of VKD proteins in mammalian and lower organisms, and the potential impact of quality control components on carboxylation, which occurs in the endoplasmic reticulum during the secretion of VKD proteins.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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