Enzymatic reaction paths as determined by transition path sampling
Masterson, Jean Emily
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Enzymes are biological catalysts capable of enhancing the rates of chemical reactions by many orders of magnitude as compared to solution chemistry. Since the catalytic power of enzymes routinely exceeds that of the best artificial catalysts available, there is much interest in understanding the complete nature of chemical barrier crossing in enzymatic reactions. Two specific questions pertaining to the source of enzymatic rate enhancements are investigated in this work. The first is the issue of how fast protein motions of an enzyme contribute to chemical barrier crossing. Our group has previously identified sub-picosecond protein motions, termed promoting vibrations (PVs), that dynamically modulate chemical transformation in several enzymes. In the case of human heart lactate dehydrogenase (hhLDH), prior studies have shown that a specific axis of residues undergoes a compressional fluctuation towards the active site, decreasing a hydride and a proton donor--acceptor distance on a sub-picosecond timescale to promote particle transfer. To more thoroughly understand the contribution of this dynamic motion to the enzymatic reaction coordinate of hhLDH, we conducted transition path sampling (TPS) using four versions of the enzymatic system: a wild type enzyme with natural isotopic abundance; a heavy enzyme where all the carbons, nitrogens, and non-exchangeable hydrogens were replaced with heavy isotopes; and two versions of the enzyme with mutations in the axis of PV residues. We generated four separate ensembles of reaction paths and analyzed each in terms of the reaction mechanism, time of barrier crossing, dynamics of the PV, and residues involved in the enzymatic reaction coordinate. We found that heavy isotopic substitution of hhLDH altered the sub-picosecond dynamics of the PV, changed the favored reaction mechanism, dramatically increased the time of barrier crossing, but did not have an effect on the specific residues involved in the PV. In the mutant systems, we observed changes in the reaction mechanism and altered contributions of the mutated residues to the enzymatic reaction coordinate, but we did not detect a substantial change in the time of barrier crossing. These results confirm the importance of maintaining the dynamics and structural scaffolding of the hhLDH PV in order to facilitate facile barrier passage. We also utilized TPS to investigate the possible role of fast protein dynamics in the enzymatic reaction coordinate of human dihydrofolate reductase (hsDHFR). We found that sub-picosecond dynamics of hsDHFR do contribute to the reaction coordinate, whereas this is not the case in the E. coli version of the enzyme. This result indicates a shift in the DHFR family to a more dynamic version of catalysis. The second inquiry we addressed in this thesis regarding enzymatic barrier passage concerns the variability of paths through reactive phase space for a given enzymatic reaction. We further investigated the hhLDH-catalyzed reaction using a high-perturbation TPS algorithm. Though we saw that alternate reaction paths were possible, the dominant reaction path we observed corresponded to that previously elucidated in prior hhLDH TPS studies. Since the additional reaction paths we observed were likely high-energy, these results indicate that only the dominant reaction path contributes significantly to the overall reaction rate. In conclusion, we show that the enzymes hhLDH and hsDHFR exhibit paths through reactive phase space where fast protein motions are involved in the enzymatic reaction coordinate and exhibit a non-negligible contribution to chemical barrier crossing.