TreX is an archaeal glycogen-debranching enzyme that exists in two oligomeric states in solution, as a dimer and tetramer. Unlike its homologs, TreX from Sulfolobus solfataricus shows dual activities for α-1,4-transferase and α-1,6-glucosidase. To understand this bifunctional mechanism, we determined the crystal structure of TreX in complex with an acarbose ligand. The acarbose intermediate was covalently bound to Asp363, occupying subsites -1 to -3. Although generally similar to the monomeric structure of isoamylase, TreX exhibits two different active-site configurations depending on its oligomeric state. The N terminus of one subunit is located at the active site of the other molecule, resulting in a reshaping of the active site in the tetramer. This is accompanied by a large shift in the “flexible loop” (amino acids 399-416), creating connected holes inside the tetramer. Mutations in the N-terminal region result in a sharp increase in α-1,4-transferase activity and a reduced level of α-1,6-glucosidase activity. On the basis of geometrical analysis of the active site and mutational study, we suggest that the structural lid (acids 99-97) at the active site generated by the tetramerization is closely associated with the bifunctionality and in particular with the α-1,4-transferase activity. These results provide a structural basis for the modulation of activities upon TreX oligomerization that may represent a common mode of action for other glycogen-debranching enzymes in higher organisms
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