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Concerted versus Stepwise Mechanism in Thymidylate Synthase

Islam, Zahidul, Strutzenberg, Timothy S., Gurevic, Ilya, Kohen, Amnon
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2014 v.136 no.28 pp. 9850-9853
DNA, active sites, antibiotics, arginine, biomimetics, catalysts, catalytic activity, cysteine, drug therapy, drugs, hydrides, isotopes, mutagenesis, thymidylate synthase
Thymidylate synthase (TSase) catalyzes the intracellular de novo formation of thymidylate (a DNA building block) in most living organisms, making it a common target for chemotherapeutic and antibiotic drugs. Two mechanisms have been proposed for the rate-limiting hydride transfer step in TSase catalysis: a stepwise mechanism in which the hydride transfer precedes the cleavage of the covalent bond between the enzymatic cysteine and the product and a mechanism where both happen concertedly. Striking similarities between the enzyme-bound enolate intermediates formed in the initial and final step of the reaction supported the first mechanism, while QM/MM calculations favored the concerted mechanism. Here, we experimentally test these two possibilities using secondary kinetic isotope effect (KIE), mutagenesis study, and primary KIEs. The findings support the concerted mechanism and demonstrate the critical role of an active site arginine in substrate binding, activation of enzymatic nucleophile, and the hydride transfer studied here. The elucidation of this reduction/substitution sheds light on the critical catalytic step in TSase and may aid future drug or biomimetic catalyst design.