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J Mol Biol. 1994 Aug 5;241(1):83-93.

(His)C epsilon-H...O=C < hydrogen bond in the active sites of serine hydrolases.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


Close interactions of the C-H...O type are known to occur in a variety of organic crystals, although it had been often argued that they do not represent true hydrogen bonds. During an extensive comparative study of all structurally characterized serine hydrolases containing an Asp(Glu)-His-Ser catalytic triad at their active centers (i.e. serine proteinases, lipases, acetylcholinesterase and a thioesterase), we have discovered that the C epsilon 1 atom of the active site histidine is invariably in a close contact with a carbonyl oxygen. The stereochemistry of these contacts suggests a cohesive, predominantly electrostatic interaction, fully consistent with the requirements imposed by the generally accepted definition of a hydrogen bond. A study of a sample of protein structures refined at high resolution revealed that similar hydrogen bonds involving (His) C epsilon 1-H are found in approximately 15% of non-active site histidine residues. The ubiquitous occurrence of this hitherto underestimated contact in the active sites of serine hydrolases suggests functional significance. We propose that the (His)C epsilon 1-H...O=C bond affects the charge distribution within the imidazolium ion so as to weaken the N epsilon 2-H bond, thereby facilitating general acid catalysis by the active site histidine during both the acylation and deacylation steps of hydrolysis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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