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Biochemistry. 2004 Jan 20;43(2):405-14.

Role of histidine-85 in the catalytic mechanism of thymidine phosphorylase as assessed by targeted molecular dynamics simulations and quantum mechanical calculations.

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Departamento de Farmacología, Universidad de Alcalá, E-28871 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain, Instituto de Química Médica, CSIC, Juan de la Cierva 3, 28006 Madrid, Spain.


The structural changes taking place in the enzyme thymidine phosphorylase (TPase, also known as PD-ECGF) that are required to achieve catalytic competence upon binding thymidine and phosphate have been simulated by means of targeted molecular dynamics (tMD). The hinge regions were characterized by structural homology comparisons with pyrimidine nucleoside phosphorylase, whose X-ray structure has been solved both in a closed and in an open form. The rearrangement of residues around the substrate that was observed during the tMD trajectory suggested that His-85 could be playing an important role in the catalytic mechanism. A quantum mechanical study of the reaction in the presence of the most relevant active site residues was then performed at the semiempirical level. The results revealed that His-85 could be involved in the protonation of the pyrimidine base at the O2 position to yield the enol tautomer of the base. To establish the role of this oxygen atom in the reaction, ground states, transition states, and final products were studied using higher level ab initio methods starting from both thymidine and 2-thiothymidine as alternative substrates. Comparison of both transition states showed that replacing the oxygen at position 2 of the pyrimidine base by sulfur should accelerate the reaction rate. Consistent with this result, 2-thiothymidine was shown to be a better substrate for TPase than the natural substrate, thymidine. For simulating the final step of the reaction, tMD simulations were used to study domain opening upon product formation considering both the enol and keto tautomers of thymine. Product release from the enzyme was easiest in the simulation that incorporated the keto tautomer of thymine, suggesting that the enol intermediate spontaneously tautomerizes back to the more energetically stable keto form. These results highlight a previously unreported role for His-85 in the catalytic mechanism of TPase and can have important implications for the design of novel TPase inhibitors.

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