A simple assay is described for estimating the activity of the condensation component enzyme (beta-ketoacyl synthetase) of the yeast fatty acids synthetase complex. The radioactivity liberated as 14CO2 from [1,3-14C]malonyl-CoA was trapped in phenethylamine and measured by liquid scintillation spectroscopy. Three enzyme-catalysed steps are involved: acetyl-CoA transacylase, malonyl-CoA transacylase and beta-ketoacyl synthetase; however, beta-ketoacyl synthetase is rate-limiting. beta-Ketoacyl synthetase activity was made independent of subsequent enzyme activities of the complex by excluding NADPH from the assay, thus blocking beta-ketoacyl reductase and preventing fatty acid synthesis. By this assay beta-ketoacyl synthetase activity was about 0.28 of the activity of the complex for fatty acid synthesis, compared with approximately 0.001 for published assays. Several pyridine nucleotides and derivatives were tested after it was discovered that NADH stimulated beta-ketoacyl synthetase activity to a greater extent than could be accounted for by its reactivity in providing a pathway from acetoacetyl-enzyme to fatty acid synthesis. Presumably, the release of acetoacetate from the central sulphydryl of the complex is the rate-limiting step in the assay procedure.
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