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J Am Chem Soc. 2009 Feb 18;131(6):2338-47. doi: 10.1021/ja808311s.

Different intermediate populations formed by tazobactam, sulbactam, and clavulanate reacting with SHV-1 beta-lactamases: Raman crystallographic evidence.

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Department of Biochemistry, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


Tazobactam, sulbactam, and clavulanic acid are the only beta-lactamase inhibitors in clinical use. Comparative inhibitory activities of clavulanic acid, sulbactam, and tazobactam against clinically important beta-lactamases conclude that tazobactam is superior to both clavulanic acid and sulbactam. Thus far, the majority of explanations for this phenomenon have relied on kinetic studies, which report differences in the ligands' apparent dissociation constants and number of turnovers before inactivation. Due their innate limitations, these investigations do not examine the identity of intermediates on the reaction pathway and relate them to the efficacy of the inhibitors. In the present study, the reactions between the three inhibitors and SHV-1 beta-lactamase have been examined in single crystals using a Raman microscope. The results show that tazobactam forms a predominant population of trans-enamine, a chemically inert species, with SHV-1, while clavulanate and sulbactam form a mixture of trans-enamine and two labile species, the cis-enamine and imine. The same reactions are then reexamined using a deacylation-deficient variant, SHV E166A, that has been used to trap acyl-enzyme intermediates for X-ray crystallographic analysis. Our Raman data show that significant differences exist between the wild-type and SHV E166A acyl-enzyme populations. Namely, compared to SHV-1, sulbactam shows significantly smaller populations of cis-enamine and imine in the E166A variant, while clavulanate exists almost exclusively as trans-enamine in the E166A active site. Using clavulanate as an example, we also show that Raman crystallography can provide novel information on the presence of multiple conformers or tautomers for intermediates within a complex reaction pathway. These insights caution against the interpretation of experimental data obtained with deacylation-deficient beta-lactamases to make mechanistic conclusions about inhibitors within the enzyme.

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