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Biochemistry. 2012 Jul 31;51(30):5894-902. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Conformational selection or induced fit? A critical appraisal of the kinetic mechanism.

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Edward A. Doisy Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63104, USA.


For almost five decades, two competing mechanisms of ligand recognition, conformational selection and induced fit, have dominated our interpretation of ligand binding in biological macromolecules. When binding-dissociation events are fast compared to conformational transitions, the rate of approach to equilibrium, k(obs), becomes diagnostic of conformational selection or induced fit based on whether it decreases or increases, respectively, with the ligand concentration, [L]. However, this simple conclusion based on the rapid equilibrium approximation is not valid in general. Here we show that conformational selection is associated with a rich repertoire of kinetic properties, with k(obs) decreasing or increasing with [L] depending on the relative magnitude of the rate of ligand dissociation, k(off), and the rate of conformational isomerization, k(r). We prove that, even for the simplest two-step mechanism of ligand binding, a decrease in k(obs) with [L] is unequivocal evidence of conformational selection, but an increase in k(obs) with [L] is not unequivocal evidence of induced fit. Ligand binding to glucokinase, thrombin, and its precursor prethrombin-2 are used as relevant examples. We conclude that conformational selection as a mechanism for a ligand binding to its target may be far more common than currently believed.

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