The Journal of organic chemistry

A model reaction assesses contribution of H-tunneling and coupled motions to enzyme catalysis.

PMID 22834675


To assess the contribution of physical features to enzyme catalysis, the enzymatic reaction has to be compared to a relevant uncatalyzed reaction. While such comparisons have been conducted for some hydrolytic and radical reactions, it is most challenging for biological hydride transfer and redox reactions in general. Here, the same experimental tools used to study the H-tunneling and coupled motions for enzymatic hydride transfer between two carbons were used in the study of an uncatalyzed model reaction. The enzymatic oxidations of benzyl alcohol and its substituted analogues mediated by alcohol dehydrogenases were compared to the oxidations by 9-phenylxanthylium cation (PhXn(+)). The PhXn(+) serves as an NAD(+) model, while the solvent, acetonitrile, models the protein environment. Experimental comparisons included linear free energy relations with Hammett reaction constant (ρ) of zero versus -2.7; temperature-independent versus temperature-dependent primary KIEs; deflated secondary KIEs with deuteride transfer (i.e., primary-secondary coupled motion) versus no coupling between secondary KIEs and H- or D-transfer; and large versus small secondary KIEs for the enzymatic versus uncatalyzed alcohol oxidation. Some of the differences may come from differences in the order of microscopic steps between the catalyzed versus uncatalyzed reactions. However, several of these comparative experiments indicate that in contrast to the uncatalyzed reaction the transition state of the enzymatic reaction is better reorganized for H-tunneling and its H-donor is better rehybridized prior to the C-H→C transfer. These findings suggest an important role for these physical features in enzyme catalysis.

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