Journal article

Unraveling the Catalytic Pathway of Metalloenzyme Farnesyltransferase through QM/MM Computation

The protein farnesyltransferase (FTase) is a Zn2+-metalloenzyme that catalyzes the farnesylation reaction, i.e., the transfer of the 15-carbon atom farnesyl group from farnesyl diphosphate (FPP) to a specific cysteine of protein substrates. Oncogenic Ras proteins, which are among the FTase substrates, are observed in about 20−30% of human cancer cells. Thus, FTase represents a target for anticancer drug design. Herein, we present a classical force-field-based and quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) computational study of the FTase reaction mechanism. Our findings offer a detailed picture of the FTase catalytic pathway, describing structural features and the energetics of its saddle points. A moderate dissociation of the diphosphate group from the FPP is observed during the nucleophilic attack of the zinc-bound thiolate. At the transition state, a resonance structure is observed, which indicates the formation of a metastable carbocation. However, no stable intermediate is found along the reaction pathway. Thus, the reaction occurs via an associative mechanism with dissociative character, in agreement with the mechanism proposed by Fierke et al. ( Biochemistry 2000, 39, 2593−2602 and Biochemistry 2003, 42, 9741−9748 ). Moreover, a fluorine-substituted FPP analogue (CF3-FPP) is used to investigate the inhibitory effect of fluorine, which in turn provides additional agreement with experimental data.


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