Calculation of vibrational shifts of nitrile probes in the active site of ketosteroid isomerase upon ligand binding

Joshua P. Layfield, Sharon Hammes-Schiffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The vibrational Stark effect provides insight into the roles of hydrogen bonding, electrostatics, and conformational motions in enzyme catalysis. In a recent application of this approach to the enzyme ketosteroid isomerase (KSI), thiocyanate probes were introduced in site-specific positions throughout the active site. This paper implements a quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) approach for calculating the vibrational shifts of nitrile (CN) probes in proteins. This methodology is shown to reproduce the experimentally measured vibrational shifts upon binding of the intermediate analogue equilinen to KSI for two different nitrile probe positions. Analysis of the molecular dynamics simulations provides atomistic insight into the roles that key residues play in determining the electrostatic environment and hydrogen-bonding interactions experienced by the nitrile probe. For the M116C-CN probe, equilinen binding reorients an active-site water molecule that is directly hydrogen-bonded to the nitrile probe, resulting in a more linear Cî - N - H angle and increasing the CN frequency upon binding. For the F86C-CN probe, equilinen binding orients the Asp103 residue, decreasing the hydrogen-bonding distance between the Asp103 backbone and the nitrile probe and slightly increasing the CN frequency. This QM/MM methodology is applicable to a wide range of biological systems and has the potential to assist in the elucidation of the fundamental principles underlying enzyme catalysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-725
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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