Despite designating catalytic roles of Asp299 and Arg131 during the transfer of gamma-phosphate from ATP to Ado (adenosine) [R. Datta, Das, Sen, Chakraborty, Adak, Mandal and A. K. Datta (2005) Biochem. J. 387, 591-600], the mechanisms that determine binding of substrate and cause product inhibition of adenosine kinase from Leishmania donovani remained unclear. In the present study, employing homology-model-guided site-specific protein mutagenesis, we show that Asp16 is indispensable, since its replacement with either valine or arginine resulted in a >200-fold increase in K(m) (Ado) with a 1000-fold decrease in k(cat)/K(m), implying its critical importance in Ado binding. Even glutamate replacement was not tolerated, indicating the essentiality of Asp16 in the maintenance of steric complementarity of the binding pocket. Use of 2'or 3'-deoxygenated Ado as substrates indicated that, although both the hydroxy groups play important roles in the formation of the enzyme-Ado complex, the binding energy (DeltaDeltaG(B)) contribution of the former was greater than the latter, suggesting possible formation of a bidentate hydrogen bond between Asp16 and the adenosyl ribose. Interestingly, AMP-inhibition and AMP-binding studies revealed that, unlike the R131A mutant, which showed abrogated AMP-binding and insensitivity towards AMP inhibition despite its unaltered K(m) (Ado), all the Asp16 mutants bound AMP efficiently and displayed AMP-sensitive catalytic activity, suggesting disparate mechanisms of binding of Ado and AMP. Molecular docking revealed that, although both Ado and AMP apparently occupied the same binding pocket, Ado binds in a manner that is subtly different from AMP binding, which relies heavily on hydrogen-bonding with Arg131 and thus creates an appropriate environment for competition with Ado. Hence, besides its role in catalysis, an additional novel function of the Arg131 residue as an effector of product-mediated enzyme regulation is proposed.