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J Phys Chem B. 2014 Jan 16;118(2):470-81. doi: 10.1021/jp410296s. Epub 2014 Jan 2.

Computational studies of the regioselectivities of COMT-catalyzed meta-/para-O methylations of luteolin and quercetin.

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  • 1Institute of Materia Medica, College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Zhejiang University , Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310058, P. R. China.


Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT, EC plays a central role in the inactivation of neurotransmitters sharing a catecholic motif by transferring a methyl group from AdoMet. Methylation of the meta-hydroxyl is much more common than that of the para-hydroxyl in many COMT substrates, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Our experimental data showed that quercetin preferred meta-methylation but luteolin favored a para-methylation. To elucidate the mechanism for different preferences of methylations of quercetin and luteolin, we performed a theoretical investigation on the different regioseletivities of COMT-catalyzed methylations for quercetin and luteolin by a combined approach of MD simulations, ab initio calculations, and QM/MM computations. The ab initio calculation results showed that both quercetin and luteolin have more negative charge distributions on the meta-O atom than the para-O atom, which indicated that meta-O preferred SN2 reaction for their methylation. Our QM/MM computations also confirmed that these two flavonoids have lower reaction energetic barriers for COMT-catalyzed meta-O-methylation than para-O-methylation. On the other hand, our binding free energy computation results indicated that quercetin has a more stable binding mode for meta-O-methylation than para-O-methylation but luteolin has a more stable binding mode for para-O-methylation than meta-O-methylation. We gave a comprehensive explanation considering both thermodynamics and reaction kinetics aspects and discussed the protein-inhibitor interactions as well as the O-methylation mechanism in our present work.

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