Enzymes in the transcarbamylase family catalyze the transfer of a carbamyl group from carbamyl phosphate (CP) to an amino group of a second substrate. The two best-characterized members, aspartate transcarbamylase (ATCase) and ornithine transcarbamylase (OTCase), are present in most organisms from bacteria to humans. Recently, structures of four new transcarbamylase members, N
-acetyl-l-ornithine transcarbamylase (AOTCase), N
-succinyl-l-ornithine transcarbamylase (SOTCase), ygeW
encoded transcarbamylase (YTCase) and putrescine transcarbamylase (PTCase) have also been determined. Crystal structures of these enzymes have shown that they have a common overall fold with a trimer as their basic biological unit. The monomer structures share a common CP binding site in their N-terminal domain, but have different second substrate binding sites in their C-terminal domain. The discovery of three new transcarbamylases, l-2,3-diaminopropionate transcarbamylase (DPTCase), l-2,4-diaminobutyrate transcarbamylase (DBTCase) and ureidoglycine transcarbamylase (UGTCase), demonstrates that our knowledge and understanding of the spectrum of the transcarbamylase family is still incomplete. In this review, we summarize studies on the structures and function of transcarbamylases demonstrating how structural information helps to define biological function and how small structural differences govern enzyme specificity. Such information is important for correctly annotating transcarbamylase sequences in the genome databases and for identifying new members of the transcarbamylase family.
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