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Biochemistry. 2007 May 22;46(20):6011-25. Epub 2007 May 1.

The catalytic effect of dihydrofolate reductase and its mutants is determined by reorganization energies.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, 3620 McClintock Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90089-1062, USA.


The effect of distant mutations on the catalytic reaction of dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) is reexamined by empirical valence bond simulations. The simulations reproduce for the first time the changes in the observed rate constants (without the use of adjustable parameters for this purpose) and show that the changes in activation barriers are strongly correlated with the corresponding changes in the reorganization energy. The preorganization of the polar groups of enzymes is the key catalytic factor, and anticatalytic mutations destroy this preorganization. Some anticatalytic mutations in DHFR also increase the distance between the donor and acceptor, but this effect is not directly related to catalysis since the native enzyme and the uncatalyzed reaction in water have similar average donor-acceptor distances. Insight into the effect of a mutation is provided by constructing the relevant free energy surfaces in terms of the generalized solute-solvent coordinates. It is shown how the mutations change the reaction coordinate and the activation barrier, and it is clarified that the corresponding changes do not reflect dynamical effects. It is also pointed out that all reactions in a condensed phase involve correlated motions (both in enzymes and in solution) and that the change of such motions upon mutations is a result of the change in the shape of the multidimensional reaction path on the solute-solvent surface, rather than the reason for the change in rate constant. Thus, as far as catalysis is concerned, the change in the activation barrier is due to the change in the electrostatic preorganization energy.

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