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On the Active Site Protonation State in Aspartic Proteases: Implications for Drug Design
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Chemistry, Department of Chemistry - BMC.
2013 (English)In: Current pharmaceutical design, ISSN 1381-6128, Vol. 19, no 23, 4257-4275 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aspartic proteases (AP) are a family of important hydrolytic enzymes in medicinal chemistry, since many of its members have become therapeutical targets for a wide variety of diseases from AIDS to Alzheimer. The enzymatic activity of these proteins is driven by the Asp dyad, a pair of active site Asp residues that participate in the hydrolysis of peptides. Hence, the protonation state of these and other acidic residues present in these enzymes determines the catalytic rate and the affinity for an inhibitor at a given pH. In the present work we have reviewed the effect of the protonation states of the titratable residues in AP's both on catalysis and inhibition in this family of enzymes. The first section focuses on the details of the catalytic reaction mechanism picture brought about by a large number of kinetic, crystallographic and computational chemistry analyses. The results indicate that although the mechanism is similar in both retroviral and eukaryotic enzymes, there are some clear differences. For instance, while in the former family branch the binding of the substrate induces a mono-ionic charge state for the Asp dyad, this charge state seems to be already present in the unbound state of the eukaryotic enzymes. In this section we have explored as well the possible existence of low barrier hydrogen bonds (LBHB's) in the enzymatic path. Catalytic rate enhancement in AP's could in part be explained by the lowering of the barrier for proton transfer in a hydrogen bond from donor to acceptor, which is a typical feature of LBHB's. Review of the published work indicates that the experimental support for this type of bonds is rather scarce and it may be more probable in the first stages of the hydrolytic mechanism in retroviral proteases. The second section deals with the effect of active site protonation state on inhibitor binding. The design of highly potent AP inhibitors, that could be the basis for drug leads require a deep knowledge of the protonation state of the active site residues induced by their presence. This vital issue has been tackled by experimental techniques like NMR, X-ray crystallography, calorimetric and binding kinetic techniques. Recently, we have developed a protocol that combines monitoring the pH effect on binding affinities by SPR methods and rationalization of the results by molecular mechanics based calculations. We have used this combined method on BACE-1 and HIV-1 PR, two important therapeutic targets. Our calculations are able to reproduce the inhibitor binding trends to either enzyme upon a pH increase. The results indicate that inhibitors that differ in the Asp dyad binding fragments will present different binding affinity trends upon a pH increase. Our calculations have enabled us to predict the protonation states at different pH values that underlie the above mentioned trends. We have found out that these results have many implications not only for in silico hit screening campaigns aimed at finding high affinity binders, but also (in the case of BACE-1) for the discovery of cell active compounds.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 19, no 23, 4257-4275 p.
Keyword [en]
Aspartic proteases, ionizable residues, pH effect, Asp catalytic dyad, protonation states, low barrier hydrogen bonds, HIV-1 PR, BACE-1
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-203259DOI: 10.2174/1381612811319230009ISI: 000319266600009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-203259DiVA: diva2:636282
Available from: 2013-07-09 Created: 2013-07-08 Last updated: 2013-07-09Bibliographically approved

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Danielson, Helena
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